Hundreds of libraries around the world have animal mascots, and cats are especially popular. Dewey (named after Melville Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System) is probably the most famous library cat. Resident at the Spencer Public Library in Iowa for 19 years, he was immortalized in a book which will soon be turned into a movie.
Perhaps the best kept secret at the Buena Park Library is that we too have a resident cat. The only thing is… no one has ever seen him!
The rumors of a ghost cat haunting the library date back more than 30 years to when our current building opened in 1969. The first reported incident involved a librarian who was alone in the machine room in the basement when she saw a pair of glowing eyes in the shadows. Since then, employees often feel that they are being watched when they are alone downstairs.
There are also stories of hearing strange sounds in empty rooms. Two librarians reported hearing small footsteps running by and feeling a disturbance in the air, as if something was rushing past their legs. A worker in the administration offices saw a potted plant move as if something was brushing up against its leaves.
Where did the ghost cat come from? Why does he haunt the library? No one knows for sure although there are a few theories - some of them downright creepy. We prefer to think of our ghostly pet as a happy, friendly spirit. Perhaps he belonged to a family who lived near the site in the days before the library moved in? Perhaps he just loves the library? He has certainly been here longer than any of our current staff members.
Many of us have thought wistfully of having a library cat like Dewey, I know I have. But it wasn’t until a recent conversation with a coworker about ghost stories and ghost sightings that it finally occurred to me… we already have a library cat! Indeed, he offers certain advantages over a real live pet - we don’t have to pay for cat food, we don’t have to clean out a litter box, and shedding and pet allergies are not an issue.
So I decided right then and there that we should adopt the ghost cat as the library’s unofficial mascot. Since “Dewey” was already taken, I decided to dub him “Melville.” And, a moment after stating this to my coworker, a notebook standing on a nearby shelf at the information desk fell over! I like to think that Melville was showing his approval. Or he might have been using the shelf as a scratching post, who knows?
Artist’s Rendering of Melville