Fall 2007

The Trustee communicates issues affecting libraries and library services. Once a library and systems join LTA, all their trustees automatically receive this quarterly publication published by LTA. To learn more about membership in LTA, Click Here.

The Library Circuit

By Sam Patton, Board Member, TRUSTEE Editor

Fall 2007 issue of Trustee

This time, I’d like to highlight two items that have come to my attention.  The first happened in our own library, and would not be unusual in a large metropolitan system.  A sponsor for an exchange student from Japan came to the East Fishkill Community Library to find some materials to help him learn English. Luck struck us all by surprise as library clerk Maria Yanagisawa stepped in to translate. Hired just two days earlier, Maria is fluent in Japanese and was pleased to help out. She also teaches an Origami class which meets in the library.

The second is from a newsletter forwarded to me, concerning something most of us are probably unaware of.  According to the message, attributed to Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona,   He goes on to write “Your library and school computers are a health hazard,  Harmful bacteria can survive as long as 24 hours on computer keyboards,  according to Dr. Gary A. Knoski, Northwestern Memorial;  all computer keyboards in public areas should be routinely disinfected every day,  according to Dr. William A. Rutala, of the University of North Carolina.”

All this comes from a web site for a product called Seal Shield, where they claim that, “ Seal Shield is the first and only fully washable Dishwasher safe keyboard and mouse solution in the market.”

These claims, sounded to me like some of the panicky email messages I get, claiming that a new, virulent virus is being spread, and that it can “rewind your hard drive, short circuit your system board, and steal all your private information! ! ! !”  When someone sends me one of these messages, my first reaction is to check the web sites of reputable anti-virus vendors, and also to do a search for the name of the virus, or just the subject line.

Two of the sites I trust are,com, and So far, I have found that every “scare” was a fraud, just designed to create a torrent of more messages.  I also recall a message warning of a kind of spider whose hiding place was under toilet seats, were very aggressive, and whose bite could be fatal.  There was even a frightening photo, and a list of “Drs.” and “Professors” at prominent institutions were quoted.  Needless to say, some of the institutions were fictional, and even the ones that existed  had no such people on their staff or faculty.   There is another interesting site about hoaxes at with a long list of hoaxes.

So I did the same research with this message.  However, this time, my search took me to another site: and I found out that the claims may well be true.  Here is a quote from the web site: “In mid-2001, he (Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona) and his team looked for five different types of bacteria (E. coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, Streptococcus, Salmonella and Staphyloccus aureus). They studied offices at four locations - New York City, San Francisco, Tampa in Florida, and Tucson, Arizona. At each site, they tested surfaces three times a day for 5 days. They sampled 12 different surfaces - desktop, phone, computer mouse, computer keyboard, microwave door handle, elevator button, photocopier start button, photocopier surface, toilet seat, fax machine, refrigerator handle and the water fountain handle. At each location, one group of employees used disinfecting wipes to clean the surfaces they worked with, while the other group did not. (The study was partly funded by a company which makes disinfecting wipes.)

The results were astonishing. In terms of bacteria per square inch, they found that the phone receiver was the filthiest - 25,000 (probably because many people can share the same phone). This was followed by the desktop at 21,000, the computer keyboard at 3,300 and the computer mouse at 1,700. The least contaminated surface was the toilet seat with only 49 bacteria per square inch - making it about 50 times cleaner than the desktop.

I did find Dr. Gerba and Dr.Rutala on the staff at their respective locations.  So my conclusion is still, “Be skeptical, but don’t jump to conclusions.”  And maybe the cooking directions are correct when they say, “Clean kitchen food preparation surfaces regularly with a disinfecting cleanser.”

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