This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, October 7, 1992

October 7, 1992 - cats in the library

I got a letter recently from a man named Michael S. M. Flanagan, of Denver. It begins, "Our family includes a 20 year old, a 22 year old, and a five year old. Currently when left to our own we go to the library very sporadically, at best. However, we would all like to. It just seems as though the motivating factors are too low, sad but true.

"However, in a recent article that I read in Cats Magazine (Oct. 1992), I found the motivating factor that would bring us all in to the library, on a very regular basis."

And what factor is that? Mr. Flanagan wants us to adopt a cat. Not a particular cat -- any cat at all.

Included with the letter was a photocopy of the article ("Library Cat Extraordinaire"), which told the inspiring tale of a public library in the northwestern Iowa town of Spencer.

It seems that one icy morning in January the staff found a kitten stuffed in the book drop. The library staff warmed, washed, fed, declawed, neutered, and vaccinated him, and after talking with the Library Board, a veterinarian, and some legal types, decided to keep him. (This is a very good reason never to be stuffed down a book drop, in my opinion.)

The cat, who after a city-wide contest was dubbed "Dewey Readmore Books," is wholly supported by public donations. As you might suspect, the soda can set out for contributions is called a "kitty."

The article also states that "Cats and libraries have been associated for hundreds of years. The animals were used primarily to eradicate rodent populations in the large, musty buildings. The practice became more and more rare as our libraries became institutionalized, sterile environments. Today, as libraries are taking on a more homey, inviting atmosphere, library cats are reappearing--not only for mouse control, but as goodwill ambassadors."

There's even a club whose primary purpose is "to encourage the establishing of a cat or cats in a library setting." My guess is that Mr. Flanagan is a charter member.

After five years of life with Dewey, the good people of Spencer say they "don't know how they ever got along without him" -- at least according to Cat Magazine, which I'm sure is utterly unbiased.

As it happens, I have worked in several libraries that have had cats. Generally speaking, it worked very well, too.

There is also some merit to the claim that there is a long collaboration between felines and libraries. After all, we have always called our main index to library materials a catalogue.

Even in these more automated times, we go out of our way to make sure that all of our new computers have mice. And our push for longer hours in the evening could be said to mimic the nocturnal timetables of our furry friends.

But the main problem with Flanagan's proposal, as I see it, is that some of my staff are violently allergic to cats.

Besides that, I shudder to think what would happen if all the people who are dog lovers, decided to donate a dog, or the people who are bird lovers...

While I consider myself a big believer in the need for ecologically-minded public libraries, even I balk at the notion of trying to replicate the entire biosphere, with dogs chasing cats through the newspapers, and birds trying to protect their nests in the fiction stacks by dive-bombing innocent browsers.

In short, Mr. Flanagan, thanks for the very entertaining suggestion. But as far as the Douglas Public Library District is concerned, if the thought of a book, magazine, audiocassette, video, storytime, adult program, or answer to a pressing question doesn't provide enough motivation for you and your family to visit the library, maybe you should "check out" the Denver Zoo.

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