Neatorama is proud to bring you an excerpt from the new book The True Tails of Baker and Taylor by Jan Louch and Lisa Rogak (previously at Neatorama). It's the true story of two library cats who brought an entire community together beginning in 1983.
It all started with mice in the library.
Assistant librarian Jan Louch and a coworker decided that what the library needed was a cat. Or, even better, two cats. Soon, they found a pair of Scottish Folds who were perfect for the job. Jan named them Baker and Taylor, and they took up residence in the library.
But these cats were much more than mousers. Visitors to the library fell in love with Baker and Taylor and their antics just as Jan had. And then, after Jan let the cats be photographed for a poster, they became feline celebrities. Children from across the country wrote them letters, fans traveled from far and wide to meet them, and they became the most famous library cats in the world.
In The True Tails of Baker and Taylor, Jan Louch looks back and tells the remarkable story of these two marvelous cats and the people―readers, librarians, and cat lovers of all ages―who came together around them.
The patrons who loved Baker and Taylor were a diverse lot. From the young mothers and toddlers who came in for story time to the retired business executives who came in each morning as soon as the doors opened and headed straight for the reading room where they could read the newspaper for an hour or two, a cross-section of the community walked through the door every day, and I loved that about the library.
(Image courtesy of Jan Louch)
In the early afternoon, there was usually a bit of a lull at the library; the patrons who came in the morning and others who returned a few books on their lunch hour were gone. The next rush consisted of the high school kids who would come in to do their homework.
Baker was a people cat – the staff’s nickname for him was “Library Slut.” It was not uncommon to see him jumping onto the tops of the bookshelves, sleeping on somebody’s purse, or pushing a pile of books out of the way so he could get a few extra head scratches. He didn’t recoil from endless squeals of “Oooooh, a cat!” from adults and children alike, and if a patron was standing in the New Books section when he happened to stroll by, he’d start playing with their shoelaces. Taylor was a more reserved cat and preferred to hang out in the staff workroom, busily supervising his co-workers.
(Image courtesy of Jan Louch)
Both cats loved kids. In fact, Baker couldn’t wait for school to let out. He actually camped out by the front door and when the first few started to show up, he’d escort them over to the reading area so he could jump up onto their books and backpacks and sit on their homework. There was one high school student who came in almost every day to do his homework after school, and Baker liked to hang out with him because the kid wrote with one hand while petting the cat with the other.
Taylor preferred to hang with the younger kids. I was always amazed that he let them do things that he’d never let an adult do, like pet his fur the wrong way and let them crawl all over him. He even liked to hang out in the children’s section whenever there was a special program going on. One day an author came in to give a talk about dinosaurs and brought in some fossils for the kids to touch. Taylor was right there, mingling with the kids and upstaging the author with his bag of rocks.
I’d sometimes see a toddler who didn’t know his ABCs yet try to “read” a book to Taylor. The kid would have a picture book open – more often than not, he was holding it upside down – and Taylor was right there by his side while the kid babbled away, usually something like, “And the cat said meow meow meow.”
(Image courtesy of Jan Louch)
Some of my the biggest fans of the cats lived 2000 miles away. Leslie Kramm, a second-grade teacher in Ohio and self-professed crazy cat lady, had read an article about Baker and Taylor in Cat Fancy magazine, and decided to have her class write letters to the cats as a writing project. I wrote back, they replied, and soon The Baker and Taylor Fan Club was in full swing.
The kids sent piles of crayoned greeting cards made from construction paper. Each card had a drawing of two cats that somewhat resembled Baker and Taylor in terms of color, though some of the kids had preferred to use orange and green. The ears ranged from the proper double fold to nonexistent. One young correspondent had attempted to draw them several times before finally giving up and drawing big black X’s over them.
Here’s one of those first cards.
Dear Baker and Taylor, My name is Thomas. I am seven years old. I think you are cute. You are probably smart. I want to visit you but the teacher said you lived in Nevada. I changed my mind. Hope you have a good time in the library.
And here’s what I wrote back – writing as the cats – after thanking the kids for their letters:
Our mother is going to put all your letters and pictures on our display wall so that the children who come to the library will see that other children know about us. Keep up your good schoolwork and keep on loving animals.
Your friends, Baker and Taylor
The fan club got a new crop of members with each new class, and we continued our correspondence for almost ten years.
(Image courtesy of Leslie Kramm Twigg)
Most of the elderly patrons would come in during the day since many didn’t drive at night. And if Baker happened to be sprawled out on his back in his usual spot near the entrance, more than a few would drop to the floor the moment they came through the door. Human and cat would then spend a few rapturous minutes attending the latest meeting of the Baker Admiration Society, but before long he’d take off in search of new opportunities; that cat wasn’t known for his lengthy attention span.
Sometimes, the patron couldn’t get up by herself, and I’d rush over to help her stand upright again. But that was a small inconvenience; it didn’t matter if her hip hurt or his knee had locked up. When they stood back up, they were always wearing a big smile.
And so was I.
(Image courtesy of Baker & Taylor, LLC)
This is just a small excerpt from The True Tails of Baker and Taylor, available today in both hardcover and Kindle editions.