This week I bring you an outside the box solution to a crummy problem: St. Helena, California’s public library had a rodent infestation. These critters were so bold they were scurrying through the staff office during working hours. While many municipalities would have called in a pest control service, St. Helena called in Elsie.
Elsie is the library’s official cat. I read about her in a library journal, but my favorite article ran in the Napa Valley Register. I love reporter Jennifer Huffman’s account of the no nonsense way the library director, Jennifer Baker, installed her newest staffer.
Of course in many towns there would be outcry over alienating people allergic to cats, or making the workplace uncomfortable for the cat-averse, but in this case, staff seem happy not to find mouse droppings or feel tiny feet running over their own. And just as the famous Dewey put his library on the map, Elsie has also generated feel-good publicity for her home. You can find her on You Tube and Facebook, where she lists her biography as “unauthorized” and her job description as “greet staff in the morning and give night report, investigate file drawers, help unpack boxes, management by walking around, direct staff in maintaining my celebrity lifestyle.”
This nocturnal librarian would like that job.
Actually I discovered that a website from the UK devotes three pages to American Library Cats. I was surprised to see how many there are, but it makes sense. I have long thought cats would be perfect additions to dormitories: pets have a soothing effect on the frazzled, stressed, rowdy, or homesick, and they are relatively tidy and self-sufficient. For the same reasons — and the clear benefit of providing 24-7 pest patrol — library cats likely provide a calming presence for both staff and patrons.
Plus, they’re pretty darn cute.