No more pets at Spencer Public Library
Even though Spencer Public Library representatives have received numerous "offers, requests and inquiries" about hosting another potential resident library cat -- all of which have been turned down -- board members voted unanimously Thursday night to establish a "permanent prohibition against having pets in residence at the library."
When Dewey Readmore Books, the library's resident cat for 19 years, passed away on Nov. 29, 2006, the board put a two-year moratorium on getting another cat.
That two-year moratorium ended in November 2008.
Last night's discussion had all of the current board members mention they'd received telephone calls about this matter.
Dennis Corcoran and his two daughters, Kelsey and Kimberly, showed up in person to relay they were not in favor of the Spencer Public Library housing another feline.
Kay Larson, the library director, referenced four pages of information and statistics about "cats and allergies" in the board packet from the National Allergy, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the Humane Society, the National Allergy Supply Company and the Love of Cats Web sites. Board members were then asked to read a similar page submitted by Dennis Corcoran, which cited information from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and WebMD. One statistic stated of the 50 million U.S. people with allergies, 30 million have pet and cat allergies.
According to WebMD, "approximately 30 percent of this number have a severe immediate allergic reaction" and "it takes several weeks to several months of continuous thorough cleaning to rid an area of cat dander."
The three Corcoran family members present at the meeting acknowledged they could relate to these statistics. Kelsey Corcoran reported she was not able to come to the library her "entire school career because of Dewey."
"I'm literally deathly allergic to cats," she said. "It will put me in the hospital."
The Corcorans written piece ended with, "According to the National Association of Physically Handicapped, 9.4 percent of the USA population, or 28 million people, have a physical handicap. We provide them accommodation, as we should. People with cat allergies should be provided the same consideration in taxpayer-funded public buildings."
When a board member questioned whether the library had "ever been cleaned after" Dewey passed away, he was told "not beyond normal cleaning."
The Corcorans were then asked if their allergies were acting up in the library last night, to which all replied no.
Esther Connell and Carol Hansen each told their peers around the board table that they'd been told stories of library visitors who'd "quit coming" when Spencer hosted its former resident library cat, but have returned since its passing.
After it was relayed that Karla Painter had called the library to leave a message saying "no cats," board members were presented with a letter by Spencer teacher Jo Merrill that encouraged them to "approve the adoption of a new library cat."
"As a teacher in the Spencer schools for over 30 years, I often heard stories from students about their encounters with Dewey," Merrill's letter stated. "The presence of a cat in the library was an invitation for children to visit a friend while learning about reading and books. Once in the habit of visiting the library, my students were able to take advantage of all of the resources provided by the friendly staff in this remarkable facility. They were more likely to become hooked on libraries.
"On a personal note, ... he was a great ambassador for the library and the community. A new cat would not replace Dewey, but would offer another generation of children the opportunity to visit their friend in the library. They, too, would then experience all that the library has to offer."
As the board continued its discussion, Roger Littlefield said, "I don't know if this is a very good comparison, but I think about the handicap-accessible door. We want to have a door that allows for, I imagine, a very small segment of our population to be able to access the library, whereas they wouldn't otherwise. And, if one individual in the community is unable to utilize the library because of the presence of a cat, I just see that as being hugely significant. And yet, I think the number is well beyond a single individual, because countless people have described what you described to me: That they simply were unable to use the library. They wanted to be here, but could not tolerate the atmosphere. Again, I think that's a very serious matter."
"I agree with Roger," Todd Korbitz said. "This is completely an access issue. This is a public space that needs to be accessible for 100 percent of everybody in the community. I think that needs to be our goal."
As the board's discussion was coming to a close, President Cathy Greiner said, "In defense of the people that were here when Dewey came -- we didn't go looking for Dewey. Dewey found us."
Immediately after the board voted unanimously to permanently prohibit future "pets in residence" at Spencer Public Library, Korbitz looked at the Corcoran family and said with a big smile, "Welcome to the Spencer Public Library!"
* It was also mentioned during Thursday's meeting that Vicki Myron, the Spencer library's former director who co-penned the book "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World," is the owner of Page Turner, a male kitten that resembles the late Dewey. It was also noted that the Japanese television crew that visited Spencer in December has returned and will interview past business owners, teachers and students today. The crew is scheduled to film Myron and her new cat on Saturday.