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Norwich Bulletin - 6/4/2006

The Library Cat

For more than twelve years, Baker and Taylor, two Scottish Fold cats, the official mascots of the Baker and Taylor book distribution company, were the beloved library cats at the Douglas County Public Library in Minden, Nevada. These two cats were literary felines in every sense of the word, living among the volumes of books throughout the library. They helped people read stories, or checked out the books all by themselves.

Baker and Taylor were just as spoiled as could be, receiving all kinds of attention from their adoring fans, whether employees or patrons of the library. They loved attention and would seek it out constantly, to the delight of the library dwellers. Baker and Taylor even had a fan club, run by a second grade teacher at the Jefferson Elementary School in Guhannan, Ohio. The cats would get letters and art projects, and even had a song written about them.

Library cats are not new. They were welcome in libraries in ancient Egypt and are employed in both Britain and Russia for rodent control. But here in the United States, the library cats don’t really have to work for a living. They are appreciated more for their calm manner and sweet disposition rather than any kind of mousing ability. These library “assistants” are pampered and well loved just by being the library cat!

The Library Cats Society actively promotes the union of cats and libraries throughout the world. They have a very straightforward creed, in that their reason for existence is to advocate the establishment of cats in libraries. They try to get library personnel to recognize the need for a literary feline presence, as well as to respect the library cat.

Throughout the world, there have been some very lucky cats that have found their way to a life among books. There is an estimated 680 library cats in the world today, with four known cats right here in Connecticut libraries.

The Lyme Public Library has housed Emma since 2003, and the Mystic and Noank Library is home to Emily, and has been since 1989! The Sharon Library boasts two library cats since 2001, Minouche and Monte.

Sometimes the library cat does end up with problems, but normally they are solved relatively easily. The Bay City, Texas, Library got creative in order to avoid any possibility of complaint by a person who might be allergic to cats. Winnie lives in the staff room and everyone comes to visit her. Many library visitors, and of course the staff, come to give her the attention she knows she deserves.

And then there is Libby, who is the Library cat of the Haysville Community Library in Kansas. Some people complained that they could not come into the library because of allergies and complained to the City Council. Hooray for the Council who decided that Libby was an economical form of rodent control and that she meant too much to most of the kids in town, to banish her from the library.

Sometimes the cats don’t win though – Muffin was the library cat for Putnam Valley, New York and one of the trustees developed an allergy. There was a long battle and Muffin did eventually lose his library cat title. However, he also got his revenge, because over $80,000 of private funding was lost due to outraged cat lovers. It might have been less costly to replace the trustee!

I encourage libraries throughout the state to consider giving a home to a library cat! And local libraries should feel free to contact Helping Paws to come up with the perfect cat to fit any library’s needs. There is something comforting about seeing a cat curled up on a chair amongst rows and rows of books. A sweet tempered cat makes a welcome addition to any library!

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