It is an old newspaper joke with a tail-twisting end:
“What’s black and white and read all over?”
Why, Pages, the Valley Center library cat, of course.
On Internet site after Internet site – about half a dozen – Pages appears.
She’s on Facebook. She tweets.
She snoozes. She blogs, “Posts from the Paw.”
Her bio is brief:
“I’m a cat. I work at the Valley Center Public Library. I love reading books and hanging out with all the library patrons. Food, fun and friends What more could a cat ask for?”
Well, contentment for one thing. The local paparazzi woke her last Tuesday from a long summer’s nap.
Like a true celebrity diva, she graciously laid her full body over the most current issue of The Wichita Eagle and tried her best to be hip.
Her green eyes widened, her ears lay back, her tail twitched.
Pages isn’t the first Kansas library cat.
There have been others.
Libby Libra at the Haysville Community Library was nearly as famous as Pages until she died on April 30, 2004. She was best known for having survived the Haysville tornado, then later being catnapped. In 1992 she was missing for more than two weeks until she escaped and found her way back in the midst of a horrific hailstorm. Prior to that, in 1990, the cat was sunbathing in the library’s parking lot when she was run over by a car. She was also internationally known after being featured in a 2002 book titled “The Kingdom of the Cat” by British author Roni Jay and on www.ironfrog.com/catsmap.html. She had her LMS – Library Mouser Supreme – degree.
But there is also Miss Kitty at the Johnston Public Library in Baxter Springs.
And for a time, there were Emma and Madeline, who lived at the Haskell Township Library in Sublette, until both died of diabetes last year.
But cats aren’t the only library ambassadors in Kansas. The Stanton County Library in Johnson City has Sophia, a gerbil. And, from 2002 to 2008, it had Harry, a tarantula.
Still, cats appear to populate more libraries.
The story of Pages becoming Valley Center’s library cat is one of a kitten’s abandonment. She was found in a bush outside the library on a hot June day. She was crying and thirsty. She gained approval to stay from all seven library board members. Library patrons voted to name her. There was a fundraiser with a $1-a-vote campaign. One woman paid $45 to name her Pages. The library garnered $97 from the campaign.
It’s been four years now.
She is now the library’s best PR, says library director Janice Sharp.
“There has been some opposition to her but many of the people opposed to her didn’t come in anyway,” Sharp said. “We do have people who object and (we) consistently tell them to let us know, we will put her in another room while they find books or, if they tell us what books they are looking for, we will find them and bring them out to their car.”
Every book or document that comes into the library, also known as the Edna Buschow Memorial Library, is swabbed with Clorox wipes to not only clean off cat dander but to keep germs at bay.
In the meantime, Pages writes. Sometimes infrequently.
A post from Sept. 15, 2011, tells the tale of how her tail was crunched:
“Everything was flowing nicely, books were coming in and out; computers were being used and my favorite patrons had already made their stops in to see me. I was listening in on a website update conversation when OOOOOOUUUUUUCCCCCCHHHHHH a giant (who shall remain nameless *cough* Corbin) viciously crimped, mangled, and obliterated the tip of my tail. I screeched and the monster *cough* Corbin, had no idea what he had done! I spun around and started to deface his foot and leg with my outstretched claws. Slowly he came to his senses and looked down. It felt like a millennium before he finally lifted his foot off my now dying tail.”
Library staffer Corbin Oliverson says now of his current relationship with Pages: “I don’t know if she doesn’t like me, but she ignores me.”
Staffer Erin Tormey says Pages has been known for her blog posts that hinge on exaggeration.
Whatever the case, Pages has been featured in Vox Magazine under Four-Legged Librarians, the Open Education Database’s “A Quick Guide to Library Cats,” the website Mental Floss and on Pinterest.
Last fall, a woman from Egypt who had read about Pages paid her a visit at the library, Sharp said.
“She is internationally known,” Sharp said.
Pages begins each day at 9:30 a.m. by greeting the staff at the door, eating breakfast and having a one-on-one session with staff where she is petted and brushed. From there, she will wander to the library foyer where she has been known to lie on her back in the most unlady-like positions.
“People will come in, particularly children, and ask for her,” Sharp said.
Midway through her interview, Pages stomped off – much like Paris Hilton did in 2011 when an ABC reporter asked if her celebrity spotlight was coming to an end.
Pages had been asked if she were a Republican or a Democrat.
Purr-haps, she’s really Independent.