Feb 3, 2018

The True Tails of Baker and Taylor

by Jan Louch with Lisa Rogak

Subtitle: the Library Cats Who Left Their Pawprints on a Small Town and the World. I had never heard of Baker and Taylor before, a pair of library cats who became famous (before Dewey). The author, Jan Louch, was recovering from a sudden divorce, having just moved with her two children to a new town to live with her parents. Her love of books carried her through many difficult times. She ended up getting a job at the small local library. When a new building was constructed on what used to be an alfalfa field, she and the library director decided they needed a cat to keep out the mice. After a lot of research she acquired Baker, a scottish fold- the breed was very exotic at the time, and known for their calm, mellow temperament. She named the cat Baker because he liked to sleep in boxes from the library wholesale distributor, Baker & Taylor. Jan really wanted to get a second cat, but it would be a long time to save up for one (all money spent on the cats' upkeep was personal). She mentioned the cat and her plans to someone from the wholesale company, and he offered to buy the library a second cat, if in return the company could photograph the cats for use in promotional materials. The second scottish fold was of course, named Taylor. When the first poster of the two cats came out, it was immediately popular with librarians around the country. The cats were featured on tote bags, in calendars, and even in a mystery novel written by Carole Douglas.

The cats were very popular with most library visitors. Jan shares how they touched the lives of herself and several individual patrons in particular. It's also story about a small town library went through growing pains- the immense amount of work it took to switch over from card catalogs to computers- different challenges the library faced in serving the public over the years as local population grew. It's pretty interesting to read how the fame of the two cats spread in a day and age when social media didn't exist yet. The author saw many fans and tourists come visiting the library just to see Baker and Taylor. She struck up a correspondence with an elementary school teacher whose students formed a fan club, writing to the cats. She helped set up a society among librarians whose libraries also kept cats. It was amusing to read how the cats loved (mostly) the attention from people, but hated their occasional photo shoots. There's a lot of endearing stories in here about the cats' individual personalities and habits.

When they grew elderly and passed away, the cats were missed by many; trees were planted outside the library in their memory. Lots of people kept asking when the library would get new cats, but unfortunately due to some complaints by patrons with severe allergies, the library board voted against them acquiring another cat.

Through the whole book, I really enjoyed how the author's love of books and reading was expressed. She worried near the end, that computers would make librarians' jobs obsolete- people could do their own research online and use self-checkout stations instead of the circulation desk. I'm glad to note that our libraries are still alive and kicking.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5             274 pages, 2016

more opinions:
Lesa's Book Critiques
The Conscious Cat

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