Libraries battle bedbugs

Libraries throughout Pinellas County are taking precautionary steps to prevent the spread of bedbugs.

Locations in Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park have ramped up inspections of their collections to identify and eradicate the blood-sucking pests.

"Does it creep us out as well as it creeps you out, sure," Pinellas Park Library Director Angela Peitras said. "That is part of why we are really making sure that we check the materials thoroughly. We're doing all we can to prevent a problem."

Each location uses a bedbug heater to essentially smoke out and and kill them.

Once a book is deemed infested, it's quarantined inside a plastic bag. Those bags are placed in the bedbug heater.

When turned on, it heats up to 135 degrees and kills the bugs without harming the books.

"I wouldn't say that it's a huge problem. It's just a routine issue that we have to add to the list to monitor for," Peitras said.

Libraries have been using dogs to sweep the building in the hunt for bedbugs. Once the dogs find a potential hot spot, bedbugs can be eliminated appropriately.

In Manatee County, Library Operations Supervisor Kevin Beach is keeping a close eye on what's festering to the north in Pinellas.

It's been months since Beach's last run-in with bedbugs, when they found them on a piece of furniture and quickly got rid of it.

"Our furniture has been recently, by coincidence, recovered, and so I just think that we're lucky right now that we have a clean facility," Beach said. "No issues here, and we hope that people are feeling comfortable coming into the building, because we feel like it's clean and safe at this point."

In most of the Pinellas County bedbug cases, library officials have tracked the bedbugs back to one individual customer.

"Unfortunately due to the rise of bedbug issues throughout the nation and in Florida, now what happens at home doesn't always stay at home," Peitras said.

Pinellas libraries are using their previously infested books as training tools to show employees what to look for.