Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Library Cat by Terry Burns


I’ve recently been working on a project that has had me visiting a large number of library sites. In the process I’ve discovered many of the sites include a picture of the ‘library cat.’ Library cat? What’s up with that? I do know a couple of bookstores that I’ve been in that I was quite likely to be visited by the resident feline who came by to survey my reading preferences.

One library said their particular cat was one of 640 known library cats in the country. I don’t know how valid that number is but from the number of sites where I saw one posted I am inclined to believe it. It caused me to wonder, why cats? In all of my wanderings I did not run across the library poodle. I saw no library parrot. If they had a relaxing tank of fish they didn’t say anything about it. Maybe some of them might have had a rat or two in the musty portions of the basement and I understand no mention of that.

Is it because cats are quiet, tiptoe around on padded feet? Because they eat little and are economical to keep? Not all cats befriend people easily but the ones posted look as if they enjoy greeting and welcoming visitors. Is it because they don’t have to be ‘taken out’, but will go do their business in a litter box hidden in some dark corner? Whatever the reason books and cats seem to go together, or is it just libraries and cats?

Whatever the reason I have no problem with it. Personally, my writing assistant is a Brittany Spaniel that my family felt would keep me from staying in my chair too much at a time but I found that installing a doggie door and keeping a sack of doggie treats on my side table will forestall that strategy nicely.

While I’m on the subject, I love libraries. I consumed more books as a kid than we could afford and the library became a stop on the way home from school most days. I read, I hung out, I played chess, sometimes I even helped them re-shelve books and did some chores there. There is a very special place in my heart for libraries.

As a result the project I referred to is visiting them. I think I’ve been to every library in the US that can be visited online. Those that have online catalogs I look to see if any of my books are shelved. For a genuine library person being shelved in a library is the utmost honor, and I know it helps bring name visibility for a writer in a community. I actually have a list on my site where I have confirmed they can find me in a library. I encourage my friends to recommend my books for shelving. I’m running a library promotion for my new YA aimed at getting kids to read and discuss it, but focusing on doing it through libraries.

Do you suppose I should get rid of this dog and get a cat for my library? If I did who would alert me when neighbors come home or the UPS guy is here? Who would protect me from fierce neighborhood cats, predatory bunny rabbits, and the roadrunner that runs amuck outside? I suppose I’ll just interface with library cats when I venture into their domain.


patriciazell said...

One of my best childhood memories was the bookmobile that came to our neighborhood every summer. Since its stopping place was right around the corner from my house, I went every time it came and returned home with an armload of books.

You know, there might be a real practical reason to keep cats in libraries. All of the books could tempt mice to snack on the tasty pages--cats would keep that from happening. Just a thought!

Timothy Fish said...

Just as a guess, I would say that we have The in the Hat to thank for the connection between libraries and cats.

Terry Burns said...

Yes, I suppose that could be.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Cats are quiet, cats are cute,
Cats are known to cover their poop!

This is what I call a Country Western rhyme, where the words don't truly rhyme, but almost. Enough to drive me nuts in a song on the radio, but make me laugh in my kitty poem.

Don't get rid of the dog, Terry; just add a cat for some variety and interest.

One of my favorite ways to help fellow authors is to buy their books and donate them to my local library.

Excellent post!

Millie Samuelson said...

I share your LOVE of libraries! Because I grew up in war-devastated China, I didn't see a library until ninth grade (didn't go to school until 7th grade). I still remember the feeling of nearly fainting at seeing ALL those books in the high school library (and it was only one room). A book lover (and my family never had many at one time because of constantly fleeing war zones),I knew then life would be good. . . And no, I've never seen a cat in a library, and can't even recall even hearing about "library cats" before this. So thanks for adding to my knowledge today, and for resurrecting some fond memories. . . :-)

Diana said...

I agree that it would be the mice that began the library cat thing.I owned a hamster once that got loose and ate all of my brothers report cards in the office desk but unfortunately was discovered before eating mine!

I too love libraries and have to say the first thing I do when we have moved about the country is find the library get my library card. I am like Pavlov's dog, I salivate when I open a library's door and smell the books. I can loose hours browsing the shelves and books have a place in my heart and on my shelves that not much other than the Lord can top! Thanks Terry for bringing back to me so many wonderful memories. Libraries in many parts of the country are threatening to close in this economy- lets do all we can to help them stay open. When you next stop by yours- ask what they need and come along side them so libraries can remain a place of discovery for young ones as they were for us.