Monday, January 11, 2010

Library Cats 45, Bookstore Cats 0

Before She Was Famous: A Rare Unretouched Photo of Stacks The Library Cat.

Cats are drawn to quiet, solitary activity. Writers know that putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, is a magnet for Kitty more potent than fresh catnip. Same goes for knitting, sewing, drawing, paying bills, folding laundry, and, of course, reading. So no surprise libraries and bookstores often have felines in residence. Two recent news stories reveal a trend in the area of literary felines: while library cats bask in the spotlight, bookstore cats are an endangered species.

The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois reports that the February 2010 issue of Cat Fancy magazine will feature a cat from nearby Litchfield among 45--count'em 45--amazing library cats. Stacks The Cat was added to the Litchfield Carnegie Public Library staff to take care of a large number of problem patrons. Stacks' mission wasn't to cuddle with crying babies, nor to tail-lash truculent teens, nor even to hiss disapprovingly at online porn watchers. Stacks signed on to rid the library of vandals who at best gnaw on pages and bindings, and at worst defecate and urinate on the collection: members of the genus Muridae, commonly know as mice.

Media Darling, Stacks The Cat, And Her Companion, Litchfield Carnegie Public Library Director Sara Zumwalt.
(Photo Courtesy Of Sara Zumwalt.)

According to Library Director Sara Zumwalt: "We haven’t had a mouse problem since [Stacks] came." The 2-year-old black cat that has lived at the Litchfield library for about a year. She was an abandoned stray left at the local "Adopt-A-Pet." Having earned her keep, the formerly forlorn feline is now a local celebrity. Below a photo of Stacks on the homepage of the library's website is the following banner headline: Stacks The Library Cat Is Famous!! A press release from the celebrated cat's publicist follows: "Our own Stacks the library cat was featured in the February 2010 issue of Cat Fancy magazine. The article, written by Erika Sorocco features 45 library cats. Stacks is lucky number 13! Come in today to see the one, the only Stacks The Library Cat. No autographs please." (This last indicates Stacks is already developing the disposition of a demanding diva, a backstage rider requiring Fancy Feast, Evian Water, and Catnip Budz is sure to follow.)

Linda, The Skyline Bookstore Cat, In Her Endangered Domain.
(Photo Courtesy Of The Gothamist.)

Meanwhile a less felicitous feline front-page features failing fortunes of Linda, the longtime grimalkin of New York City's Skyline Books. According to a January 8, 2010 story in The Gothamist, the independent bookstore's closure at the end of the month may force this feline to join the ranks for the homeless. The store owner fears that Linda's upbringing will make it impossible for her to make the transition to household pet status. An employee relates the following tale of woe: "Linda is a territorial cat. She's had complete run of the bookstore her entire life. She's 8 years old, and for 8 years any dog that's intruded on her domain has been sent packing, and she's pretty good at it. Ideally another bookstore could take her. She's a bookstore cat, and there just aren't any left, [independent] bookstores or bookstore cats. It's very sad."

As avid book buyers, Book Patrol readers are no doubt aware of the perilous state of independent bookstores in the current economy. But most may have remained unaware of the desperate need for a Bookstore Cat Orphanage. A haven for displaced tabbies of the tomes must be established posthaste by some kind soul. (No Mr. Bumbles or Miss Hannigans need apply.) Without quick action, waves of bibliophile felines will roam the streets, prowling to find a place permitting them to purr peacefully atop their precious pages.

Erstwhile Editor, Mr. Ripley, Stops At His Favorite Watering Hole.
(Photo Courtesy Of Henry Kirkwood Mattoon.)

My own feline companion, the charming but untalented Mr. Ripley, has been settled by the keyboard as I write this post. He's been a reluctant visitor to the library where I'm employed on a couple of occasions, but, as far as I know, has never seen the inside of a bookstore. Nevertheless, he showed his solidarity with displaced bookstore cats by stepping firmly on the "Delete" key and erasing half of this text. (Or was he just jealous of the media frenzy over divalicious library It-girl Stacks?)

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