molly, the library cat

as published in the Friends of the Staunton Library Newsletter, Winter 2015

"On a warm summer day Molly will pause on her way to work and examine flowers in the library garden. Her job at the Staunton Library, even in cat steps, is but a short commute, as she lives just across the street.  Ever present, polite, calm, she is loyal to all the patrons of the library. Any attempt to curry favor with a cat treat will result in being treated no differently than any other one of her loyal subjects.  After setting out from her home in the morning Molly walks leisurely through the terraced garden and patrols the side entrance of the library. She may choose to take a bite or a sip of water from bowls set for her at this location. A favorite posting for Molly is on the steps of the library entrance, especially on a day when the sun has warmed the concrete cap on the stone railing. It is a good location for evaluating library visitors and acknowledging library employees.  

Two hundred generations ago (in cat lives) some of Molly's distant cousins guarded the libraries in Egyptian temples. According to the Greek historian Herodotus the cats were specially trained to prevent rodents and snakes from destroying the rolls of papyrus. Monks in monasteries kept rats from eating their laboriously made manuscripts by allowing cats to roam their workrooms. Rats and mice eat paper, and libraries have a lot of paper. The British government once payed a stipend to libraries for the housing of good mousers!  Modern library cats, the occasional mouse bounty aside, are well fed, content and happy, and unlike a library dog, of which there are no known samples, cats don't bark and they have tiny teeth. The general demeanor of a cat, along with purring and pet-able fur can create a relaxed atmosphere for both patrons and librarians alike. Occasionally there have been reports from patrons regarding allergies, real or imagined, and a tussle or two between a library cat and a companion animal.  Warning! When the library in Putnam Valley New York removed their cat, two members of the community were so upset they took the library out of their wills, producing an $80,000 dollar loss in revenue.

Perhaps the most famous library cat in the world is Dewey Readmore Books. When still a kitten Dewey had been dropped, on the coldest night of the year, into the book return box of the Spencer Public Library in Iowa. Dewey was found the next morning by library director Vicki Myron. He won her heart, and the hearts of the staff by pulling himself up and hobbling on frost bitten feet to nudge each of them in a gesture of thanks and love. Dewey lived at the library for nineteen years and after his death a popular book was written about his life.  Thanks to Gary Roma of Iron Frog productions we now have an accounting of where all the library cats are!  There are 809 known library cats world wide, with 664 in the United States. The number is a bit skewed depending on one's viewpoint as 27 are in the form of statues, 6 are stuffed (as in toys) and one is a ghost cat. Not counting Molly, there are 14 cats in Virginia's libraries. But of all 809 library cats, our Molly is the sweetest, kindest, and most intelligent of all!"