What It’s Like to Be a Library Cat During the Pandemic

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries across the country have closed their doors to the public—but what has that meant for the cats who call America’s libraries home?

Libraries have long been home to feline residents who keep patrons company, promote activities and programs, and assist with pest control. We checked in on four library cats (and their humans) to see how their lifestyles have changed during the pandemic.

Browser from Texas’s White Settlement Public Library may be one of the nation’s most famous library cats. In a viral story from 2016, a city council member tried to oust Browser from his position at the library; after a public outcry, Browser was reinstated for life while his political opponent lost his reelection campaign.

Browser has stuck around the library during the pandemic closure but seems to be missing the crowds.

“He is generally quite independent, but since the closure he always wants to be near people. We can usually find him in the lap of a staff member, or lying helpfully on their keyboard,” library staffer Kathryn King told I Love Libraries. “Now that we are offering curbside service, he posts himself at the window during curbside hours to watch the patrons come and go.”

Left: Browser from White Settlement Public Library. Right: Cosmo from Grand County Public Library.

Cosmo strolled into the kid’s room at Grand County Public Library (GCPL) in Utah two years ago and has been a beloved fixture of the community ever since. Today, staff see him as “the face of the library”: he appears in monthly library newsletters and even has a weekly “Cosmo’s Corner” feature in the local paper where he (and his human co-writers) highlight different library services.

He’s stayed at GCPL throughout the pandemic, and now that that the library is starting to resume in-person services, patrons have been thrilled to see him.

“He’s also a peacemaker,” library director Carrie Valdes shared. “We’ve found it incredibly effective to enforce rules (especially the mask mandate) by focusing on Cosmo’s health!”

Across the pond, the library cat at Ireland’s Maynooth University has also been adjusting to life during COVID-19. Known only as the MU Library Cat, he’s been a campus celebrity ever since he started hanging out by the school’s library building; since then, staff have installed a hut to make his spot extra comfortable and even created a Twitter account on his behalf.

“He has become something of an unofficial mascot,” said Fiona Morley, head of digital programs and information systems for the library. “He is a popular, informal, and positive feline ‘face’ of the university and the library.”

Library staff know him to be extremely self-sufficient, but during the pandemic people have still been sure to drop by his hut to check in and share snacks. He’s also remained active on social media (with help from Fiona and fellow librarian Hugh Murphy), which he uses to stay connected to the campus community and share reminders about the importance of social distancing.

Left: the MU Library Cat from Maynooth University. Right: Socks from Pinson Public Library.

Socks, the resident cat at Alabama’s Pinson Public Library, has been spending quality time with staff during the pandemic. A few years ago, he and his littermates were rescued by a city council member, who brought the kittens to the library hoping staff might be willing to adopt them. As it turned out, Socks ended up finding a home at the library instead, where he helps greet patrons and promotes the library on social media.

Library director Allison Scanlan thinks the COVID-19 closure may remind Socks of when the library moved to a new location in 2019. “We closed the old location for 3 months to pack everything up and move, so it was just the staff in the building with Socks at that time too. I think he was worried at first that we might be moving again!” she explained. “We have even scattered some boxes around for Socks. He will meow at patrons through the door if they approach. I know that he misses his adoring public.”

Have a library cat story you’d like to share? Email ilovelibraries@ala.org and we may feature you in an upcoming article.

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