Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Queen Emma - The Best Library Cat in All the Land

Walking into the library in the morning is really hard these days. Leaving is even harder.  Every morning for the past 11 years Emma came to greet us with her little Maine Coon chirpy meow as we arrived at work. Every night before we left I would seek her out (often much to the annoyance of staff members who were waiting for me so we could all leave together) pet her, tell her that I loved her and I would see her tomorrow. Now she is gone. We all knew the day would come sooner or later, but we were really hoping for later. I know it will get easier over time, and at some point there may be another library cat in our future. I think Emma would approve of that as she was always tweeting about all the cats that need homes and urging people to adopt. (Yes, Emma had a Twitter account. More about that later.)  But for now the library feels empty. And quiet. And sad.

Emma was 15, and she was with us for 11 years. We had put out the word to local animal shelters that we were looking for a cat that was friendly and might thrive in a library. Someone from the Valley Shore Animal Welfare League in Westbrook called and said she thought they had the perfect cat for us. When Emma walked into the Library on February 11, 2003, it was supposed to be on a trial basis. We didn't know if having a cat in the Library would work or how our patrons would react. But almost immediately it was clear that she had found her home. It felt like she knew this was where she was supposed to be, and for the staff and patrons, the library suddenly became a warmer, homier place. Emma was more than just a library cat. She was our comfort when we were sad or stressed. She was a bridge to breaking the ice with strangers. She was our public relations ambassador. And she was famous!

She had several names.  Her name when she came to us was Nina, and I mostly continued to call her that out of habit.  The Library had a contest to find a new name for her, and our patrons chose Emma.  One of our staff members came up with Emmanina. Though her official name became Emma, (she preferred Queen Emma because everyone knew she was in charge) she didn’t really seem to care what name we used as long as she had a healthy supply of food, treats, toys, hugs, and scratches. 

Most days she would drape herself over my computer keyboard as I worked or snuggle against my back in my chair. Often, if I got up, she would spread out on the chair, and when I came back, she wouldn’t budge.  I usually ended up perched on the end of my chair hoping I wouldn’t fall off.  She also loved the stool at the circulation desk.  The staff would often have to stand because Emma claimed the stool. And she really loved her dog bed.  Yes, dog bed!  One holiday season, the Library was collecting pet supplies to donate to an animal shelter.  Someone donated a large dog bed, and Emma just took possession of it. She loved it so much, we had to ask the people who donated it, if they would mind if we kept it for Emma and replaced it with another donation. They loved her, too, so of course she got to keep it, and she used it until the end.

She brought so much joy.  A bad day could turn around just by spending a few minutes sitting with her.  Children’s faces would light up when they walked in and saw her, and patrons laughed with surprise and delight when she would jump on their laps as they were sitting and reading or working.  In the middle of serious lectures or programs we would suddenly hear laughter only to see her chasing a toy, jumping between shelves or doing some acrobatic feat to entertain the audience. I was always amazed at how fast she could move, even as she got older.  As recently as a few months ago, she would zoom from one end of the building to another and all we would see was a blur zipping by.  I would always check to make sure she wasn’t annoying patrons who were trying to study or work, and the response was always “Oh no, we love it!”

Emma was the catalyst that sparked conversation with new patrons and made them feel welcome and comfortable.  They would ask about her and soon be conversing with the staff as if they’d known us for years.  She attracted visitors from all over the country. People who found her on the web would stop in just to see her as they were passing through Connecticut.  She had her own page on our web site, her own email address and a Twitter account.  She had Twitter followers from all over the world and as far away as India.  She was the subject of a presentation at the Connecticut Library Association Conference in 2006, was featured in Cat Fancy Magazine in 2010, had a chapter written about her in a book about working cats of New England, was the subject of a radio interview on Canadian Public Radio, and was chosen as Library Journal's very first Library Cat of the Month in June 2013.

But it wasn’t her fame that made her so special.  It was her sweet, gentle nature, her companionship, her ability to bring out the best in all of us.  There have been and still are other library cats. Though some might argue with the title of this piece, she was our queen, and for us, Emma was and always will be the best library cat in all the land.

At the end of January, we found out she had cancer.  She fought the good fight, but on February 27, it became clear that she didn’t have the strength to fight anymore. We are grateful that we had some time for all the people who loved her to say good-bye.  We plan to have a small memorial to Emma on the grounds of the new library when it is complete.

Rest well, dear, sweet Emma.  You were greatly loved.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Web site down

We have just received word that the data center that hosts our web site and email is down.  Until it is fixed, you can access our online catalog, ICONN, Overdrive, etc. from the links at the right.  We apologize for the inconvenience.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wally Lamb

Too often in life reality doesn’t live up to our expectations.  Such was not the case Friday night when I finally met Wally Lamb. It was everything I had hoped for and more. He was funny kind generous and completely down-to-earth.

Wally spoke at the Lyme Congregational Church at an event celebrating the Lyme Public Library’s centennial anniversary. He read from his new book We are Water which is scheduled for publication in November 2013. For over an hour he held the audience of almost 200 people spellbound.  There was no rustling, no murmuring.  You could hear a pin drop. After the reading he generously answered questions, told funny stories and signed books for another hour or more.

I had wanted to meet Wally since I read his first two novels She's Come Undone and I Know This Much is True and heard him speak at the Connecticut Library Association conference many years ago.  His books and his characters affect me in a way that few others do. Part of it is that his books are set here in southeastern Connecticut.  But I think also it's because his characters are so human. Often at our book club meetings someone makes the comment “I didn't like this book because I hated the characters.”  I often feel the same way. It's hard for me to like a book if I can't identify with the characters.  Wally's characters are flawed and sometimes damaged.  They don't always act wisely. They sometimes do stupid, destructive things. But in Wally's hands their humanity comes through, and I end up rooting for them and feeling for them.  It was the same with Friday's reading. It was heartbreaking but punctuated with moments of humor. I can't wait for We are Water to be published.

Another reason I admire Wally so much is his work in the writing program with the women at the York Correctional Institute.  Most of us hope we can make a difference in the world or at least our little corner of it.  Wally does that.  He, along with other volunteers including Library Board member Susan Cole, help the women acquire self-awareness; help instill self-confidence, and a sense of achievement and self-worth.  He has helped them publish two books of their writing, Couldn’t Keep it to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters and I’ll Fly Away: Further Testimonies from the Women of York Prison.  If you haven’t read them, they will open your eyes. Yes the women are prisoners and were convicted of crimes. But most of them have endured a level of horror and violence in their lives that most of us cannot even comprehend. Many of them will never leave the prison.  But of those who have been released and who spent meaningful time in the writers program, not one has returned to date.  Wally’s commitment and dedication to the women and the writing program over the last 15 years is remarkable considering the demands of his own career and accompanying fame.

I told Wally that meeting him is one of the highlights of my 27+ years at the Lyme Library.  I meant it.  Sometimes life does not disappoint.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Online Catalog Maintenance

The Library's online catalog and circulation system will be unavailable from 10 PM ET Saturday, December 8 until Monday morning, December 10 while our vendor migrates to a new server location.  You may see a notice to this effect if you try to access our catalog.  This may also affect access to the Overdrive downloadable e-books and audio books since it requires authentication of your library barcode from the circulation database. 

While our system is down, you may search for books, dvds, etc. in reQuest, the statewide database.  Go to www.iconn.org. (There is also an ICONN button on the Library's web page.) Log in as a "guest" instead of using your library barcode.  Otherwise, the system will try to access our catalog which will be unavailable. 

We appreciate your patience with the disruption of service.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Kindles, Nooks, and iPads

The Kindles, Nooks, and iPads that the Library purchased through a grant from the Community Foundation of Eastern CT are now available to patrons.  The two iPads are for use within the library only, and printing from the iPads is enabled.  The Kindles and Nooks (the library has 2 of each and they may be reserved) may be checked out for two weeks.  They are preloaded with best-selling titles, and we will be periodically adding new ones.  In some instances, we may be able to acquire titles for the e-readers before the print copies arrive. We welcome suggestions for titles to be downloaded. Below is a list of the titles currently available. In the near future, we hope to have updated lists on our web site.  Please try them out and let us know what you think!

Title Author Device

Age of Miracles Walker, Karen Nook
Barack Obama Maraniss, David Kindle
Beautiful Ruins Walter, Jess Kindle
Caleb's Crossing Brooks, Geraldine Kindle
Canada Ford, Richard Nook
Dare Me Abbott, Megan Nook
Gold Cleave, Chris Nook
Gone Girl Flynn, Gillian Nook
I, Michael Bennett Patterson, James & Ledwidge, Michael Nook
Seating Arrangements Shipstead, Maggie Kindle
Shadow of Night Harkness, Deborah Kindle
Souvenir Benn, James R. Kindle
Summerland Hilderbrand, Erin Nook
The Light Between Oceans Steadman, M.L. Nook
The Next Best Thing Weiner, Jennifer Kindle
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Strayed, Cheryl Kindle

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Web site accessible again

The malware warning has been cleared from the library's website. You can once again access the library's online services at www.lymepl.org. We have appreciated your patience while we resolved the problem. (Note: If for some reason you still get the malware warning, try clearing the cache or temporary Internet files on your browser.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Access to the Library's Online Services

The library has been having problems with its web site for the past few weeks.  Our site became infected with malware.  It has been fixed and is clean. Unfortunately, however, it is taking a while for the browsers to rescan our site, so it is still displaying the following warning:

Reported Attack Page!
This web page at www.lymepl.org has been reported as an attack page and has been blocked based on your security preferences.
Attack pages try to install programs that steal private information, use your computer to attack others, or damage your system.Some attack pages intentionally distribute harmful software, but many are compromised without the knowledge or permission of their owners.
To avoid worry about accessing our web site, we have posted links to our online catalog (both Verso and Iluminar, the Library Connection Downloadable Catalog, our events calendar, and ICONN in the sidebar.

We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience.  We are working to resolve the problem as soon as possible. We will let you know as soon as the web site is displaying properly again.