Literary 'mews'

a gray tabby has found a home, and a public library gets a warm, fuzzy feeling

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Emily is queen of her domain. She presides over the Mystic and Noank (Conn.) Library with a regal air, attended by library staff and visitors who have learned to do her bidding. Emily is not shy about telling them what she wants.

For a cat, it doesn't get much better than this.

She doesn't like taking the stairs, so she waits by the elevator for someone to push the buttons (she can't reach them herself). Then she marches onto the elevator and quietly rides up to the second floor.

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Library volunteer John Jackson is often called upon to give Emily a drink of fresh water. Emily will indicate which bathroom she would like to use, then wait for Jackson to turn on the light and turn on the faucet just right so that Emily can lap a long, cool drink.

"Everybody likes having her here," says Marilyn Barr, the assistant librarian. "She's very approachable. She likes to be the queen, and she likes people to pay homage to her."

Emily has lived in this public library ever since some local children found her in the bushes 11 years ago. She was just a kitten. As they searched for a home for the little gray tabby, friends kept recommending the local library. Two other cats had lived there in the past.

Dewey (named for the Dewey Decimal System, of course), lived at the library for about two years until someone down the street adopted him. Even after he moved out, Dewey would often come back to visit. He would just slip in through the book-return chute.

John Doe was next - the cat was found under the library's fire escape, in a window well. But the library had 10 catless years before Emily appeared.

Emily is named after some famous literary Emilys: poet Dickinson, novelist Bront, manners-maven Post, and local resident Emily Allyn. (Ms. Allyn's family, you see, donated the huge Oxford Unabridged Dictionary - one of cat Emily's favorite napping spots.)

Emily is famous and beloved here. Every Halloween, the library has a birthday party for her - complete with a large cake decorated with plastic rats. Children come in costume to help her celebrate. Emily is always invited. Sometimes, she attends.

The librarians feed Emily twice a day. On Sundays, when the library is closed, the staff takes turns coming in to feed her. Her cat box is in one of the rest rooms (she never goes outside - the vet makes house calls when necessary). She has cat beds in strategic places, and many, many toys.

Signs around the library ask patrons not to feed Emily, as she is an ample cat. The stairs would be good exercise, but it's hard to break the elevator habit.

If you visit, on most days you'll find Emily in one of her favorite napping spots: splayed across the checkout desk, curled up in an armchair by the chess set, or maybe lying by the fireplace. She's always happy to receive guests and will reward her subjects with a loud purr.

"Having a cat here adds to the comfortable atmosphere," says library director Joanna Case. "It's more like home, less intimidating. Emily makes our library warm and fuzzy."

*You can 'write' to Emily at her e-mail address: emnl@juno.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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