When I took my first professional library job, I was concerned that I might get bored, especially given the ten-hour workdays. After a year on the job, I can say with confidence that being bored is not something I need to worry about.
One great thing about my job is that you never know what to expect. I learned very quickly that, while I may have some vague idea of what I will work on during a particular day, most of my time will be spent on things I had not expected. Who would think, for example, that a large part of my job the last month would be taking care of cats?
Existing on a budget that does not nearly cover air conditioning, at my library, we open up the doors and windows in the summer evenings as the air begins to cool. A few weeks ago, a friendly calico manx began stopping by. I had something of a previous relationship with this cat: shortly after starting the job, I heard that the people who live next door to the library had kittens in need of homes. It just so happens that my parents were looking for a new feline friend.
The manx, to whom we have given the purely functional name Mama Cat, had given birth to a small litter, and my parents chose a prancing orange-and-white gentleman now known as Tika. Following this first meeting with our Mama Cat, I would occasionally run into her in the parking lot, where we would pause for a brief exchange of head-scratching and meows.
Mama Cat, now looking for a cool place to nap in the evenings, began making guest appearances about three weeks ago, though she has yet to sign up for a library card. But we are a welcoming and open-minded establishment, and allow people (and cats) to use our facilities, excepting the checking out of materials, without a card. Said use of the facilities does include catnaps on the puffy chairs.
When she first began her patronage, Mama Cat was terribly skinny, and, asking around, we soon learned that the people next door don’t let her inside and consider leaving a dish of food on the porch to be “taking care of” a cat. Mind you, we live in an area frequently traveled by other cats, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, squirrels, skunks and many other creatures who will gladly sample of the kibble on the porch.
I should mention that the people next door used to have a little dog who would break his tie and come over. He went missing a few months ago. They also have three books six months overdue, and owe $50 in late fees.
We are not, shall I say, these people’s biggest fans.
When we saw Mama Cat’s size, we immediately spent desk money on some food for her, at which point she began stopping by more often. Wouldn’t you come to the library more if we gave you free food? She even began bringing her daughter, who also lives next door.
Two weeks ago, we noticed Mama Cat was pregnant again. At this point, we began discussions of how to best catnap her, get her fixed, and find her a better home. (Author’s note: how many blog posts have you read that use the word ‘catnap’ in two different senses?)
I am happy to report that the kittens were born seemingly fine (I have yet to meet them, as they apparently reside in a hole under the old town hall). Mama Cat has begun to put on a bit of weight, and we have found a good home for her and her kittens.
Caring, and finding homes, for cats-in-need? Just one more duty of the rural public librarian.
Author’s note 2: This country’s libraries are in serious trouble. For most businesses, profits (or budgets) go up as sales (or use) go up. For libraries, it is the opposite. We get busier and busier in times of economic hardship, and yet our budgets are among the first things to be cut. If you like or value your library, please consider making whatever small donation you can, be it money, books or DVDs. Consider volunteering, as staff and salary cuts are leaving us overworked and drastically underpaid. We will gladly serve you for as long as we are able. That said, my library has been on schedule to lose $25,000 this year. Without the help of generous contributions, we will be closed in less than a decade.