H1N1 Fears Prompt Libraries To Pull Puppets

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- The latest victim of the H1N1 flu season is a fuzzy pile of toys at libraries in and around Minneapolis. The Hennepin County Library announced it is in the process of eliminating puppets from the public areas in each of its 41 branches.

Ali Turner, senior youth services librarian, said various concerns from the public and staff prompted the decision. The primary reason is that puppets, by nature, are not the easiest things to disinfect, Turner said.

"When you're using puppets you're putting your hand right where someone else's hand has been," Turner said. In addition, he said, because puppets tend to have faces and mouths of their own, people often use the toy to "kiss somebody else's face."

"So it encourages the opposite of social distancing," he said.

The libraries will keep puppets on hand for staff use during various story times, but they will be kept out of the public areas of the library when not in use.

Turner noted that none of the puppets had been purchased with county funds. The toys had been available for the public to use while at the library and, in some cases, to check out.

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