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The Globe and Mail

Vancouver libraries still battling bed bug problem

Bed bugs are common in temperate climates around the world, but the discovery of live bugs in libraries was somewhat unusual, as their environments – with solid surfaces and frequent human movement – are not ideal.

One year after live bed bugs were discovered at several Metro Vancouver libraries, some branches confirm the parasitic insects are still present.

At the Vancouver Public Library, at least 41 bugs were discovered across 12 of the library's 22 locations this year, spokesman Stephen Barrington said. The reporting is the result of new protocols put in place after live bed bugs were discovered at the VPL's Mount Pleasant branch last fall.

Since then, staff members have been trained to look out for the critters, Mr. Barrington said. If employees believe an item has bed bugs, they are to place it in a plastic bag and seal it securely. The item is disposed of and supervisors are notified, he said.

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Mr. Barrington noted the rate of such occurrences is "extremely low," especially considering that the VPL's branches total 500,000 square feet and have 6.5 million patron visits each year, circulating approximately 10 million items. Bed bug detection dogs were brought in at the height of the cross-municipality infestations last year, but they have no longer been deemed necessary.

Mr. Barrington did not know whether the insects found in the libraries this year were alive.

At the Burnaby Public Library, where the Cameron and Bob Prittie Metrotown branches were treated for the pests last year, a "rigorous" anti-bed-bug strategy that includes inspections every three months has been credited for a significant decrease in the insects.

Bed bug detection dogs go through each of the BPL's four branches and, when a problem book is a detected, a range of books in that section is boxed up and isolated, said deputy chief librarian Deb Thomas.

In the past year, the number of such boxes has dropped to 18 from 45, she said.

No live bed bugs have been discovered.

Ms. Thomas said the library decided against more intrusive control techniques, such as pesticide sprays, as it did not want to saturate library materials with chemicals.

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No one from the New Westminster Public Library was

available for comment on Thursday. The Sixth Avenue location was closed for a day last fall after several bed bugs were detected.

Bed bugs are common in temperate climates around the world, but the discovery of live bugs in libraries was somewhat unusual, as their environments – with solid surfaces and frequent human movement – are not ideal.

The insects, which are about the size of an apple seed and most active at night, tend to thrive in areas where they can hide close to humans, on which they feed.

Most commonly, these include mattresses and couches, as well as in the cracks and crevices of box springs and night stands.

It has been theorized the bugs may have gotten into the library system by crawling into the borrowed materials of bookworms who read in bed.

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Library patrons who suspect their borrowed books may have bed bugs are advised to seal them in plastic bags and notify the library.

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