REALM Project: Happening Now

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Project update: Test 4 announced

Battelle began testing on a fourth round of materials on July 31, 2020. Four of the five items in test 4 are similar book materials as were studied in test 1. In test 1, the items were laid flat and exposed to air; for test 4 they will be stacked to simulate their common storage configuration in bins, book drops, and on shelves. A fifth item, expanded polyethylene foam, has not been tested previously; the foam material will be exposed and open to air for this test, to simulate its more common configuration when used in archives and museums.  

The Battelle lab testing will examine the length of time the COVID-19 virus may live on these commonly used materials. The book and DVD case materials were provided to Battelle by Columbus Metropolitan Library, and the foam by the National Archives and Records Administration. Results from this round of testing are expected to be released in mid-September. The items include:

Materials studied in test 1, but in a stacked configuration:

  • DVD/CD case (polypropylene)
  • Hardcover book cover (buckram cloth)
  • Softcover (trade paperback) book cover
  • Plastic protective cover (biaxially oriented polyester film)

Material commonly used in museums and archives for storage and shipping:

  • Expanded polyethylene foam (1-in. thickness)

The results of test 4 are expected to be released in mid-September. The results of test 3 examining plastic-based materials results are scheduled to be released in mid-August.

 

Previous project updates

July 20, 2020: Test 2 results announced

As part of REALM Project’s Phase 1 research, Battelle has conducted two natural attenuation studies to provide information on how long some commonly handled materials would need to be considered for quarantine prior to being put back into use. The results of Test 1 were released on June 22, 2020; Test 2 began on June 23, 2020. The studies were conducted by applying the virulent SARS-CoV-2 virus on five materials held at standard room temperature and humidity conditions. The materials in Test 2 included the following five items, which were provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, Library of Congress*; Columbus Metropolitan Library**; and the National Archives and Records Administration***:

  1. Braille paper pages*  
  2. Glossy paper pages**  
  3. Magazine pages** 
  4. Children’s board book**  
  5. Archival folders***

Samples from each item were inoculated and placed inside the closed book or magazine. The items were then configured to mimic common storage conditions such as stacked or shelved books, or a pile of folders or magazines. (In Test 1, the items were not stacked.)

Results show that after two days of quarantine in a stacked configuration, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the archival folders.

After four days of quarantine in their stacked configuration, the virus was not detectable on the braille pages, glossy book pages, and board book.

The magazine pages showed a trace amount of virus at four days. Day four was the final timepoint tested.

The evaluation demonstrates that standard office temperature (68°F to 75°F) and relative humidity conditions (30 to 50 percent) provide an environment that allows for the natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 present on these materials after two days of quarantine for archival folders and four days of quarantine for the three book page materials. Compared to the results of Test 1, the results of Test 2 indicate that a slightly longer quarantine time for some types of cellulose-based paper materials sitting in a stacked configuration may be required to render SARS-CoV-2 undetectable.

Read the full Test 2 results.

July 9, 2020: Test set 3 announced

Battelle begins testing a third round of materials on July 10, 2020. For test set 3, five plastic-based items were selected for Battelle lab testing to examine the length of time the COVID-19 virus may live on materials commonly used in archives, libraries, and museums. The materials were provided to Battelle by Columbus Metropolitan Library; the National Archives and Records Administration; and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, Library of Congress. Results from this round of testing are expected to be released within four weeks. The items include:

Item Material type Usage
DVD/CD polycarbonate audio books, video, music (a polypropylene DVD case was tested in test set 1)
Talking book, USB cassettes acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), specific blend cartridges are used in talking book readers available through the National Library Services for the Blind and Disabled
Acrylic acrylic display cases, partitions
Storage bags (flexible plastic) low-density polyethylene (LDPE), recycling #4 storage, library and museum kits, gift shop packaging
Storage containers (rigid plastic)
high-density polyethylene (HDPE), recycling #2 transporting and storage of items

June 25, 2020: Test set 2 announced, compilation of reopening references released

Battelle began testing a second round of materials on June 23, 2020. The materials were provided to Battelle by Columbus Metropolitan Library, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, Library of Congress. The tests will examine the length of time the COVID-19 virus may live on the materials, and the results are expected to be released in late July 2020. The items include:

•    braille paper pages (closed in the book)
•    glossy paper pages (closed in the book)
•    magazine pages (closed in the magazine)
•    children’s board books (closed in the book)
•    archival folders (stacked together)

The results of the first round of testing were released on June 22, 2020.

Also available is a collection of public library reopening plans which includes information about how these organizations are preparing to reopen and resume public operations.

June 22, 2020: Test set 1 results available

As part of the REALM Project’s Phase 1 research, Battelle has conducted a natural attenuation study to provide information on how long some commonly circulated library materials would need to be quarantined prior to being returned to public circulation. Testing was conducted by applying the virulent SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) on five materials held at standard room temperature and humidity conditions. The materials tested included the following items, which were provided by Columbus Metropolitan Library:

(1) Hardback book cover (buckram cloth)
(2) Softback book cover
(3) Plain paper pages inside a closed book
(4) Plastic book covering (biaxially oriented polyester film)
(5) DVD case.

Results show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the materials after three days of quarantine. The evaluation demonstrates that standard office temperature and relative humidity conditions typically achievable by any air-conditioned office space provide an environment that allows for the natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 present on these common materials after three days of quarantine.

Read about the Test Set 1 Results.

June 17, 2020: Systematic Literature Review released

The REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Project has produced a systematic literature review to help inform the scope of the project’s research and the information needs of libraries, archives, and museums (LAMs). Battelle researchers completed the review, which includes findings from available scientific literature. This review focused on studies of virus attenuation on commonly found materials, such as paper, plastic, cloth, and metal; methods of virus transmission; and effectiveness of prevention and decontamination measures.

Read the Systematic Literature Review and related resources now. 

June 3, 2020: Project test plan and preliminary literature review released

The REALM Project has released the document, “Test Plan for the Natural Attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 as a Decontamination Approach.” This is a technical document that explains the process for testing materials provided by libraries, archives and museums, including details about the time periods for testing, as well as the environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity.

Also available is a Preliminary Literature Review, prepared by Battelle. This compiled information was used to help set the context for the laboratory research that is being conducted during the REALM Project.

May 20, 2020: Phase 1 literature review and testing

Phase 1 of the research is focusing on commonly found and frequently handled/circulated materials, especially in U.S. public libraries.

  • A review of published scientific research is underway and will be publicly released. The purpose is to gather and evaluate existing research about SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) related to the following research questions:
  1. How might the virus spread through public library general operations?
  2. How long does the virus survive on material surfaces through environmental attenuation?
  3. How effective are various prevention and decontamination measures that are readily available to public libraries in the near term?
  • A technical testing plan from Battelle detailing how materials will be tested in their lab. This is expected to be released on the site by May 29, 2020.

  • Battelle began the first round of testing of materials on May 13, 2020. Five items commonly found in public libraries, which are also in high circulation and expected to arrive back in public libraries in large volumes were selected for this round. The materials were provided to Battelle by Columbus Metropolitan Library, and the tests will determine the length of time the COVID-19 virus may live on the surface of the materials and the results on this first round are expected to be released in mid-June. The items include:
    • hardcover book, made of buckram cloth
    • softcover book cover
    • pages inside of book
    • plastic protective cover (biaxially oriented polyester film)
    • DVD case

May 14, 2020: REALM Project site launch

REopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM) is a research partnership between OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle to create and distribute science-based information and illustrative practices designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to staff and visitors who are engaging in the delivery or use of museum, library, and archival services.  

Visit oc.lc/realm-project for more information on the project, research timeline, and committee members. Project updates and resources will be added to this information hub as they become available.

We encourage you to sign up to receive project updates by email and/or bookmark the project page, as it will be the primary source for housing all program results and resources. You can also follow OCLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn for the latest project updates and join the conversation using #REALMproject.