The Toronto Public Library has been battling dozens of incidences of bed bugs in several branches in recent years, according to documents obtained by CTV Toronto.

Documents dating back to 2011 and obtained by CTV show city staff have been tackling the pest problem at branches in the downtown core, Scarborough and the Beaches.

At the Queen Saulter branch, located at Queen St. East near Broadview Ave., the critters have been dealt with seven times since 2011. They were found at public computers, the circulation desk and the book drop.

The entire branch had to be treated in March of 2012 after live bed bugs were found in books.

Documents from October stated: “Rentokil found bed bugs in various traps during regular inspections, indicating bed bugs are spreading.”

The branch was heat-treated the following month, but more bed bugs were found this year -- in January, May and July.

At the Toronto Reference Library, there have been 15 incidents since 2011. Bed bugs were found under computer chairs, at study carrels and in other places.

Last September at Cedarbrae Library, pest control crews fumigated the carpets. Books had to be thrown out.

Records show an infestation was discovered at the Kennedy Eglinton branch in Scarborough, when staff lifted a carpet and found bed bugs on the underpadding.

Late last year a library user at the Beaches branch reported being bitten twice. Chairs in the branch were treated, but later that same week more creepy crawlers were found.

Bed bugs then turned up inside books, and pest control experts found them in six areas of the library. Finally, the entire branch was heat treated.

The Toronto Public Library said the incidences of bed bugs are very low compared to the number of materials that circulate.

  • In 2011, there were 28 confirmed bed bug incidents compared to 33 million items borrowed
  • In 2012, there were 22 confirmed incidents, compared to 32 million items borrowed
  • So far, CTV has tallied 24 incidents in 2013

To combat the issue, this year officials began proactive, quarterly inspections at each of its 98 branches. It also has in place special bed-bug treatment protocol.

“Our pest control firm is immediately called in to confirm whether or not it is a bed bug and if it is confirmed, then the appropriate treatment plan is put into place,” TPL spokeperson Ana-Maria Critchley told CTV Toronto.

How they spread

While the libraries aren’t ideal places for bed bugs, University of Toronto entomologist Sandra Smith said bed bugs can get into -- and travel -- in books because so many people read in bed.

“The books are compressed, they’re tight crevices. When the bed bugs leave after they’ve fed, then they’re going to find a place where it’s quiet, dark and secluded,” she said.

The bugs can then live weeks or months without biting again, meaning they may remain in the book spines. Library staff report them when they see them and ask borrowers to do the same.

Pest control experts suggest putting borrowed library material in the freezer before perusing them, and they also recommend not bringing them into the bedroom at all.

Libraries aren’t the only public facilities with the problem. Documents obtained by CTV back in June revealed that fire stations, community centres, and employment offices were among dozens of buildings that have battled bed bugs.

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Natalie Johnson