Cats are frequently a part of the library landscape. Just as they find a nook in shops, cats find a shelf at many libraries and add their feline charm to the service.
Other animals have a library role, particularly therapy dogs. But I’m not sure that any other animal rises to the level of the cat in sheer numbers and overall provision of critical library service, such as napping in the stacks or controlling rodents or quietly purring at the thought of WorldCat.
Cats and libraries seem an almost natural mix.
According to the library cats map maintained by Gary Roma of Williamsburg, MA, there have been, at last count, 809 total known library cats worldwide, with 302 of them alive and currently residing in a library, including 43 permanent residents. In the United States, among the 236 current residents there are 35 permanent residents, 27 statues, four virtual library cats, two stuffed lions, one stuffed Siberian tiger, one stuffed cheetah, and one ghost cat.
Although it’s not clear the last time Roma updated the site, he has done an excellent job compiling this information, complete with cat names, life spans, contact information, and an interactive map. He even made a successful documentary called Puss in Books: Adventures of the Library Cat.
A quick Google search shows other efforts to document library cats. For example, Alison Nastasi compiled some photos of library cats with their stories, including the late Dewey of Iowa’s Spencer Public Library who inspired the book Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.
Dewey produced a number of rules for running a library, including this one related to staff:
If you are feeling particularly lonely and wanting more attention from the staff, sit on whatever papers, project, or computer they happen to be working on at the time—but sit with your back to the person and act aloof, so as not to appear too needy. Also, for maximum effect, be sure to continually rub against the leg of the staff person who is wearing dark brown, blue, or black.
Some library cat news is harder hitting. There was a story in March about a man in Massachusetts who was fighting to evict Penny, the unofficial mascot of the Swansea Public Library, because he said it was unfair to patrons who were allergic to cats and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. An uproar ensued, and he and the library worked out a settlement.
But I am hoping that LJ readers can help provide a fuller picture. So send us your library cats. Not the animals themselves, but a photograph with a short description of the cat and why it is important to your library.
I once ran a contest to find the fattest cat in a city. Every day for a few weeks my mail overflowed with envelopes (yes, snail mail because this was in that ancient time before email) that contained some of the most entertaining pictures I have ever received. It was fun to open the mail each day while the contest lasted, for me and many of my colleagues. And when we published, we didn’t showcase just the fattest cat (which I remember weighed 46 pounds), but we published all the photographs. It was an immensely popular feature.
Now I think there’s a place for LJ to showcase library cats with a brief biography. They deserve it as valuable staff members, and it’s fun. I’m hoping other cat lovers out there will help me sustain this and send us their cat photos.
Please send submissions to Meredith Schwartz at email@example.com and put “library cat” in the subject line; depending on the response, maybe we will be able to start picking a Library Cat of the Month for the magazine; perhaps we can do more online via the LJ Tumblr.
Michael Kelley, Editor-in-Chief