I recently finished reading “Dewey : A Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World”.  This book, co-written by former Spencer Iowa Librarian Vicki Myron and Bret Witter, is the story of a cat, the librarian herself, and a small town in northwest Iowa during difficult economic times.  

The book cover hooked me, as it featured a portrait of an orange cat confidently looking straight at the camera.  If you change the color of the eyes from gold to green and add freckles on the nose, then you have a portrait of my own cat Rufus, who fortuitously turned up at the side entrance to the Newark Library on a Sunday afternoon in May 2007, scampering after a teenager on a bike who vociferously made clear that he wasn’t his owner.    

Dewey’s entrance into the Spencer Library was much more perilous.  Dewey was found in the library drop box on a bone-chilling morning in January 1988.  The librarian and another staff member gave the nearly frozen kitten a warm bath and gradually introduced him to library visitors.  

Dewey was remarkable in that he seemed to have a knack for knowing who could use some cheering up – physically and mentally challenged children, older library visitors, farmers and other workers coming in to fill out employment application forms online perhaps for the first time in their lives.    

Though the position was never advertised, the library soon found itself with a goodwill ambassador who greeted library users as they entered in the door in the morning, entertained visitors by jumping from shelf to shelf, and greeted every visitor to the program room by jumping on the large round table and rubbing against the hands of all those present.   The number of visitors to the library rose from 60,000 yearly to 100,000 during Dewey’s first year at the library. 

The author of the book, Vicki Myron, is very candid about why she felt such a strong bond to Dewey.  Both had serious lifelong health problems.  Dewey also served as a go-between to facilitate conversation between Vicki and her daughter Jodi during those difficult years when teenagers think that their parents are the enemy.   

Visitors would come in from different states and even from other countries to see the famous library cat.  Dewey became famous worldwide, getting fan mail from several countries, and was even featured on a Japanese television program.  Dewey died at the age of 19 and his ashes are buried in the lawn outside the library.  A granite marker was placed on the site. 

 New Line Cinema is working on a film adaptation of the book that may reach the screen in 2010 or 2011.  Meryl Streep is reportedly very interested in playing the role of Vicki Myron.  

I would heartily recommend this book to teenagers and adults.  Call Number:  636.80929 MYRON.

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