At least two bed bugs have been spotted at L.A. Central Library in the last month -- one on August 9, crawling across a reference desk in the Science & Technology Department, and one on Labor Day, crawling across the page of the latest True Blood novel that had been checked out by an anonymous library patron. And no, the irony has not escaped her. (The patron has asked L.A. Weekly not reveal her name, because she's worried about her landlord finding out that book-borne bed bugs could be now creeping around her apartment. But we can assure you: She's very normal and sane, and has no apparent vendetta against the Los Angeles Public Library system.)
"The bug crawled across my book, and I immediately freaked out"...
... says our source. So she placed Dead Reckoning inside a Ziplock and took it back to the L.A. Central Library at 630 West 5th Street, where "the clerk was so dismissive. If I had not gotten aggressive with her, she would have just un-Ziplocked it and shelved it."
But our source kept at it, requesting a higher-up at Central Library. And she claims that the higher-up, a nice Asian lady, told her:
"We've had reports [of bed bugs] from all over the place. We're spraying all over. But we hadn't heard they'd gotten to Literature yet."
Our calls to everyone in the Central Library staff directory went to voicemail. (The only library employee we could reach was Acting Youth Services Manager Eva Mitnick, who said, "I haven't heard a word about bed bugs.")
But Peter Persic, public-relations director for the whole library system, eventually called us back to confirm that indeed, one bed bug had been spotted in the Science & Technology department on August 9. However, he assured us that a pest-control company immediately "came out, closed the department, and sprayed the area."
According to Persic, "that was the one and only bed bug that we found" in any L.A. library, before or since.
Our True Blood reader's story contradicts that claim. And if there's one thing we know about bed bugs: Where there's one, there's bound to be another. (Don't believe us? Just ask Wiki Answers!)
Books, in particular, are a bed bug's dream. That's because these vampirical little suckers can hide out in a book's cool, tight binding by day, then crawl out and cozy up to a warm-blooded human -- who often keeps his books bedside -- in the dead of night. Lovely creature, that cimex lectularius.
From the Travel Channel's "Top 10 Bedbug Infestation Spots":
Crawling into bed with a good book has taken on a whole new meaning if you're borrowing books from the public library system. Before you head home with a stash of bestsellers, check the pages and spines for bedbugs circulating from one reader's home to the next.
L.A. library spokesman Persic says that Central Library and all the other branches contract with a pest-control company that "comes out on a regular basis to inspect and spray."
He says it's too early to be notifying the public. "Since we've only found one, and these critters are everywhere, we don't want to unnecessarily worry people," says Persic. "But if people see something that's suspicious, we want them to let staff now. And we've certainly let staff know that they need to be vigilant." (In particular, he commends the bug-spotters in the Science & Technology department.)
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Our anonymous bed-bug victim isn't buying into claims of a quarantine. She suspects that there's not enough communication between staff, and precautions being taken by management, to know for sure whether these incidents were isolated.
"They need to get informed and they need to let people know," she says. "People should be able to make an informed choice before they patronize the library."
The L.A. County Department of Public Health was unaware that any bed bugs had been found at Central Library. PIO Sarah Kissell said she'd look into the reports.