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Book-Loving Pests and How to Keep Them Out of Your Library

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Best-selling author and journalist Caitlin Moran once said, “A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead.”

She’s right. Libraries are many things, but most of all they’re important. If you’re in charge of maintaining or managing one, keeping it safe--in every sense--is important. That includes keeping it safe from pests. That can be a challenge. All kinds of pests want to feed on and infest books. Luckily, however, you don’t have to take on this challenge alone. We’re here to help. Here’s what you should know about common book-munching pests and how to defend against them.


Silverfish are the most common book pest. These small, carrot-shaped and shiny grey-colored insects have bristle-like appendages and bodies covered in scales. Silverfish like books because they're fond of any material that is high in starch. They won't stop at paper, however - they'll consume the glue found in bindings as well. If you start notice pages with notched edges and yellow-gold stains, you probably have a silverfish problem.

A good way to prevent silverfish is to keep your library well-lit. Silverfish prefer dark, enclosed places. If you can make sure they can’t find those spaces in your library, you can keep them out.


Many varieties of beetle, especially small, dark ones like the carpet beetle, will consume books. Unlike silverfish, however, beetles don’t prefer books as a source of sustenance and therefore don’t infest them as frequently. However, books have cellulose paper. Some older books also have leather covers and glue in their bindings. All of these are welcome food sources for beetles. When beetles infest books, their larvae bore into the book to find both food and shelter in a single space. The larvae stay there until they're adults and then emerge, leaving tiny identifying bore holes through the pages.

To control beetles in your library, you’ll have to find and take infected tomes off the shelves. These types of insect love dusty, out of the way areas. Maintain high levels of consistent cleanliness, even in the darkest corners of your library. If you can make your library unappealing to beetles, they won’t infest your books.


Librarians are just as likely to run into rats and mice as any other buildings in New York. Rats and mice both use paper when building their nests, which is part of what draws them into libraries. You can tell you have an infestation if you notice brown and yellow staining or gnaw marks on pages.

It can be tough to difficult to exclude rodents in buildings as large as libraries. You’ll have to follow some specialized rodent prevention techniques for businesses. The most important of these techniques is probably conducting frequent perimeter checks. Rodents, rats especially, are capable of squeezing into buildings through the smallest of holes. Make sure you're repairing any crumbling brick, loose seals, or old screens you come across. The best way to keep them out is to not let them in in the first place.


If you have any questions about pest prevention in your library, give us a call. We wrote the book on commercial pest control.

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