Volume 13, Number 6 November 4, 2005

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Library says food doesn’t attract book-eating critters

By Lawrence McMahen

Although two professors told Council Oct. 20 they’re horrified that food is being eaten in the University Library, because crumbs and garbage could attract insects or rodents that could destroy valuable books, Library officials say there is no threat to the books.


Food and drinks are allowed in most U of S Libraries.

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In fact, Linda Fritz, the Library’s Acting Associate Dean for Public Services, says most branches of the Library will not only keep their permissive policy on eating and drinking, plans call for a coffee shop to be opened inside the Main Library when it is renovated within the next few years.

Mathematics Professor Doug MacLean kicked off the issue when he told Council he is “horrified at the food consumption in the Library stacks”, which can lead to insects and animals that could consume books. “Clean it up!” MacLean urged Provost & Vice-President Academic Michael Atkinson at the meeting.

Physics Professor Chary Rangacharyulu agreed. He said a problem developed last summer in the Natural Sciences branch library with students frequently eating food in its two meeting rooms, and leaving smelly refuse in the garbage cans. “They even had Domino’s Pizza delivered right into the Library!” Rangacharyulu said. He said the situation could attract rats and mice. He added a no-food, no-drink policy was started in that branch in September, “and I’m proud to say, the problem has been stopped.”

Fritz said an odour problem did arise in the Natural Sciences branch last summer, because of a combination of a lot of student use and less than daily emptying of the garbage cans. But she said at no time was there any danger to the book collection, and the ban on eating and drinking fixed the smell issue.

Ken Ladd, Acting Dean of Libraries, told Council libraries are generally moving away from prohibiting food and drink. Banning it can lead to people sneaking in drinks and not telling staff when they spill – leading to a worse clean-up problem.

Fritz says the U of S Main Library and its six branches can each set their own policy on eating and drinking. Only Natural Sciences bans it.

“We’ve never encountered any problem with vermin, mice or whatever (including bookworms),” and have never lost a book to them. “We’ve had more damage to books from floods.”

Fritz adds that, as far as she’s aware, there hasn’t even been one computer keyboard lost from a drink spill in the 14 years computers have been in the Library.

She says the Library does urge patrons to act responsibly when bringing in food or drinks. She likens it to hiking in the wilderness – pack out the garbage you bring in, or ensure it’s put in proper garbage containers. The Library recently ordered large new recycling and wastebins.

And it plans to follow the lead of bookstores like Chapters and McNalley-Robinson, and public and university libraries in some other cities, and open a coffee shop when renovations take place in the Main Library within a few years.

Fritz says librarians want the Library to be a welcoming gathering place for students and others on campus.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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