By John Last
People in the Chautauqua County community of Ashville enjoy coming to their public library, and not just to check out books. People also come to the library to visit with Libby the Library Cat.
Libby is 19 years old. She was brought to the library as a three year old to help solve a mouse problem in the building. She’s still here and is as common a sight at the library as the books on the shelves. Some people come to the library and do not even touch a book, magazine, or newspaper. They come to visit Libby.
“Children who come into our Children’s Library love to spend time with Libby and are often really just thrilled to discover there’s a cat in the library. She’s so loving with them,” says Kristina Benson, Library Director.
Scott Stevens is a client at the Resource Center in Jamestown. He is brought to the library each week by his community coach Richard Gifford. Scott looks forward to his visits.
“I like to play the games and see the cat and pet her and play with her. She likes that when I do that. She loves me. I love her,” he said.”
Sadly, Libby’s health took a bad turn beginning two years ago. It got worse in January of this year.
“She was losing weight,” recalls Kristina. “She was looking straggly. She wasn’t eating. She was sneezing and sleeping. She just wasn’t her old self. We were really worried.”
Bills from the veterinarian totaled $900 for the first quarter of the year as the vet cared for Libby’s ear infections and lung issues. The small library has a small budget and veterinarian bills were not part of that budget. The library staff was ready to cut programs and delay buying new books. The cat was family and her care was priority number one.
“No. There was never a question. Our board didn’t question it. Nobody even thought, ‘Let’s get rid of the cat.’ We love Libby,” says Kristina.
Someone suggested starting a GoFundMe page for Libby. The goal $900. Before long, the $900 goal was shattered. Donations now total over $3100. The library now has a contingency fund to cover upcoming vet bills for Libby. There’s lots of love for the library cat.
“For whatever reason, people were just drawn to this idea that there is this poor little old cat in this tiny little library that needs our help,” says Kristina. “The community really came together.”
Libby, by the way, is still very lively thanks to her ongoing veterinary care. The staff hopes to keep her inside the library to greet visitors for as long as she stays in good health.