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Japanese libraries hope UV machine gives visitors peace of mind

TOKYO (Reuters) - Libraries in Japan are hoping a machine that sterilizes books using ultraviolet light is giving visitors reassurance to take-out publications during the coronavirus pandemic.

Libraries across the country are installing the machine, which takes 30 seconds to sterilize a book using UV light and flutter it pages to clear out dust.

The Narimasu Library in Itabashi, north of Tokyo, has had a machine installed since 2018 but the facility’s manager said that it is now being used three times as much.

Patrons can use the machine, which sits next to the front desk, once they have out a book and then again upon it’s return. However, this is not compulsory.

For many of those in the library on Wednesday, the machine was as much a novelty as it was a COVID-19 deterrent.

Eriko Isozaki, who comes to the library weekly to borrow children’s books, said the machine entertained her son, who appeared fascinated with the blue ultraviolet light.

“I’m not sure how effective this is, but I think it’s better than nothing,” said Isozaki.

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“And it’s fun. My child seems to enjoy watching (the machine).”

Many of the library’s patrons are elderly and so keeping them safe is extra important.

Many of them used the machine when returning books, including 77-year-old Yasuhito Kobayashi.

“I feel relieved because it sterilizes the books... but I’m not sure if it’s actually effective,” he said.

Although Japan has avoided the vast number of COVID-19 cases and deaths seen in other countries across the world, it is now experiencing a third wave.

As of Wednesday, Japan had reported 167,330 coronavirus cases, with 2,458 deaths.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant and Kim Kyung Hoon; writing by Jack Tarrant; editing by Angus MacSwan

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