Lawrence Public Library cancels its fall book sale due to bed bug infestation


photo by: Abee5

While bed bugs usually feed strictly on blood, the ones in Lawrence have taken a new dietary interest: library book donations.

A sign reading “we are not yet accepting donations” is posted on Lawrence Public Library’s door. Over Labor Day weekend, a donation of  books cancelled the Fall Book Sale, scheduled for Sept. 26-29.

“[The man who dropped off the books] called up and said, ‘there might be a problem with the donation I dropped off,’” said Ruth DeWitt, Friends of the Lawrence Public Library Coordinator.

Four days after he donated books to the library, the local man realized that his apartment was infested with bed bugs. He had brought the books in an open laundry basket and then put them in with all of the other donated books. After he realized his mistake, he immediately called the library.

“He called to let us know which was very responsible of him,” DeWitt said.

The bugs migrated to the other donated books, infesting such a number of them that it became necessary to cancel the fall book sale, one of the biggest library fundraisers of the year and one that NHS students often work at for their service hours.

“It is shocking just to think how many people handle all of those books,” English teacher Carol Spring said. “ … I never once thought about catching something from them.”

Hundreds of volunteer hours were spent sorting through the books and separating contaminated ones from those that hadn’t been exposed.

Now, the books that passed their inspection are being stored in a trailer, and after a year, the bed bugs should be gone. Though most of the contaminated books were thrown out, the Fall Book Sale was still cancelled.

“We just didn’t want to take a chance of the public’s health,” DeWitt said.

Not only was this a hard time for the library, but the man who donated also felt guilty about the fall library sale being cancelled because of his donation. The library usually raises around $25,000-30,000 from this sale.

“He was really sorry,” DeWitt said. “He was someone who came to the Book Sale often. He knows how important it is to the library.”

Even though this event was a loss for the library, it helped the library staff better prepare for any other challenges that may come their way in the future.

“It was a learning experience,” DeWitt said.