Book review: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
By Vicki Myron with Bret Witter
Grand Central Publishing

Review by Kathryn L. Ramage

As a Master of Library Science and cat lover, I’m astonished that I never heard the story of Dewey before. The cat who lived at the public library in Spencer Iowa for eighteen years and acted as the library’s mascot, official greeter, and spokes-kitty seems to have well-known worldwide in his day; he was featured in a number of magazine articles, and even in two documentaries. (Also, the author turns out to have taken her degree from my own library-school alma mater, Emporia State University, just a few years before I was there.)

Dewey was abandoned as a tiny kitten, dropped into the Spencer library’s book return box on a freezing winter night. He was rescued by the library staff the next morning and adopted by them, especially by the library’s director, Vicki Myron. Vicki’s telling of his story here contains the sort of stories cat-lovers adore hearing: about Dewey’s relentless addiction to rubber bands, his fondness for climbing up the shelves (and even up into the ceiling light fixtures), his finickiness over food, and his manner of sleeping sprawled in the middle of the public reading rooms. There’s a worrying story near the middle of the book in which Dewey gets out of the library and is missing for several days. And the ending made me cry.

But there’s more, too. This isn’t only Dewey’s story, but Vicki’s, and the story of the library itself. As library director, Ms. Myron used the best Emporia-taught ideals of making a library more than a warehouse for books, but a part of the community and a source of information for the community’s needs. The library had a role in seeing Spencer through its financial hardships during the 1980s when all small rural towns and farms were suffering, and Dewey played his part in this by providing publicity for the library and bringing people to it.