Library may let collection’s cat books out

first_imgGLENDALE – Glendale Central Library staffers are taking another look at the library’s prized collection of cat books – believed to be the nation’s largest. The nearly 4,300 books and other items range from the weird to the technical: a tarot card book for cats, a tome called “The Thalamus and Basal Telecephalon of the Cat,” porcelain cat figurines and an 1834 book on the natural history of cats. The cat books take up 300 linear feet of shelves in the special collections room, a windowless area stacked floor-to-ceiling with bookshelves on the library’s upper floor. Patrons need an appointment to get in. Librarians want to expand the local history collection, which shares limited space with the cat books in the special collections room. They also want to get more books from the cat collection into general circulation so anyone can read them without a special appointment. “I think it … has a sentimental value for the city and it’s a point of pride having this large and deep of a collection,” said Nancy Hunt-Coffey, libraries director for the city. The collection started more than 40 years ago with a large donation of books by the late orthopedic surgeon Harvey Billig, who studied cats professionally, and his wife, Roberta. As the years went on, members of Glendale’s Jewel City Cat Club sent in checks for the library to buy more books and the library itself spent money to expand the collection. The Jewel City Cat Club’s members got older and two years ago the group disbanded, said Nora Goldsmith, the library access services administrator. The library has kept adding books to the cat collection, as recently as last month buying a book called “Psycho Kitty? Understanding Your Cat’s ‘Crazy’ Behavior.” But librarians have started combing through the cat collection, and they are moving to general circulation dozens of fiction books involving cats. Next they will start putting extra copies of cat books into general circulation, and doing the same for the books that cover the same material as other books in the cat collection. “It takes someone’s time to go evaluate what’s there and think about whether it should remain in a special collection, special environment setting, or whether it should be made generally available to the public,” Hunt-Coffey said. “So we’re just working through that slowly as we have the resources available.” Billig hoped to help cure human ailments by studying the movements of cats, and many of the books he donated reflect that theme. But the collection also includes plenty of tongue-in-cheek material, including a series of recipes for cooking your cat and a book called “Catmopolitan,” a spoof on Cosmopolitan magazine. “I’ve never been there myself but I do know that it is one of the premier cat collections in the United States,” said Tom Dent, executive director of the New Jersey-based Cat Fanciers Association. “As a matter of fact, I don’t know of any others, although they could exist.” The cat book collection is not going anywhere, officials said. But some of the shelf space it occupies in the special collections room will be freed up as librarians comb through the books. “We’re kind of bursting at the seams, especially (for) local history,” Goldsmith said. Alex Dobuzinskis, (818) 546-3304 [email protected] IF YOU GO To make an appointment to see the cat books in the Glendale Central Library’s special collections room, call (818) 548-2037. The library is at 222 E. Harvard St. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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