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Wichita’s Central Library closes because of bedbug problem

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, August 2, 2012, at 11:22 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, August 23, 2013, at 4:55 p.m.

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Wichita’s Central Library closed early Thursday because of a pest problem: bedbugs.

Most of the library at 223 S. Main will remain closed — except for services available in the library’s lobby and foyer — until Monday.

The library had not budgeted for the bugs. Library officials and a pest control firm are assessing the extent of the problem.

Hours on Friday and Saturday will be reduced at the Central Library to 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It also will close on Sunday, when it normally is open from 1 to 5 p.m.

“We face some difficult decisions ahead of us, I’m sure. We don’t know what it is expected to cost,” library director Cynthia Berner-Harris said during a Thursday afternoon news conference.

Berner-Harris said a patron reported seeing a bedbug on a chair on the first floor of the library late Wednesday. The chair was removed from the public area, and two bugs eventually were found. Another bug was found on a chair on the library’s mezzanine. Other sections of the library are currently being searched.

“The library does have a continuity of operations plan that includes all kinds of things, including pest infestations,” Berner-Harris said. “In accordance with that plan, we immediately removed the chair from the public area. We contacted experts who came on site. They helped us identify the pest as a bedbug.” The full extent of the bedbug problem may not be known until Monday, she said. The full course of treatment will then be determined.

No other library locations in town are affected by the closure. Berner-Harris said she did not believe books and other materials at the Central Library would pose a bedbug problem to patrons. However, if any patron had sat in one of the infected chairs, she said, it might be possible the bugs could transfer to clothing.

People can return books and other items, register for library cards, place holds and make payments from the lobby window at the Central Library. Telephone reference and virtual services from the library’s website are also still offered. However all programs and meetings through next week will be moved to library branches throughout the city. People planning on attending those events should call the Central Library to find out where those events have been rescheduled.

Some staff who normally work at the Central Library will be temporarily moved to branch locations.

“At this time, we have no reason to believe materials have been impacted but as a precaution we have suspended the transfer of materials from the Central Library to all branches,” Berner-Harris said. “Our staff is working to do everything possible so that we can reopen the building for full service as quickly as possible.”

In 2009, the Denver Public Library had a similar problem when 31 rare books were discovered in a book drop to contain bedbugs, larvae and droppings. According to an article in American Libraries Online, the estimated cost to replace the books was $12,000 and an additional $6,000 to fumigate. And, last month in Tulsa, bedbugs were reported to have temporarily shut down that city’s busiest library.

“It was on our radar based on the experiences of Denver and other places,” Berner-Harris said.

She said library officials in both cities told her “the first thing to do is being very cautious and start suspending services so you don’t expand the problem. That’s definitely what we have done … We have done everything right from the point the problem was brought to our attention.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com

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