One doesn’t have to be a librarian for long to find out that the first thing to do at a professional library conference is making a beeline straight to the Baker & Taylor table to get a shopping bag. The very first experience will have you hooked on repeating this activity. While this tradition falls under the things they don’t tell you in library school, you do learn about Baker & Taylor as a book distributor for libraries. Any decent library conference will have Baker & Taylor among its publishers, but it is their beautiful shopping bags with cats on them that is eye-catching to all. It doesn’t take long to learn that these cats are the company’s mascots.
Currently, I am trying to clean out rooms, closets, and the drawers in my house. As a librarian, I have the bottom of one closet filled with all kinds of bags. In this closet, there are also Baker & Taylor shopping bags. These special bags would never end up in the basement with the “other” shopping bags. Much to my surprise, as I got to the floor of the closet, I found four Baker & Taylor bags. Since these are “precious” bags, I thought that I should bring them to work and put them on top of the bookcases.
The cats, their bags, and their posters all have a charming story. Although it all started with a mouse problem in a library:
In 1983 the Douglas County Public Library in Minden, Nevada purchased a Scottish Fold cat to address a mouse issue. The cat made himself at home in a Baker & Taylor box in which books were shipped from the distributor. The sales representative came for a visit and met “Baker”. But couldn’t he use a friend, he asked? The sales director provided the library with a grant to cover the expenses for a second Scottish Fold cat who became “Taylor” in exchange for another set of photo shoots.
Locals of all ages went out of their way to stop by and say, “hello” to the cats in residence resulting in increased visitorship, which led to increased circulation for the library. Their presence became known due to the felines making themselves at home on the checkout counter. For the first poster, (see below) 30,000 bags were given out at a conference. As the photoshoots continued, the felines became famous worldwide. In 1988 the pair were promoted to mascot status for the Baker & Taylor Company. They became so famous that they even had a fan club. Plus, they had visitors from much further away dropping in just to say, “Hi!”
Although Baker & Taylor has since been purchased by another company, the cats continued to be the new company’s mascots.
To this day, a book and three boxes of artifacts from Baker & Taylor’s time as library cats still remain housed at the Douglas County Public Library.
The book is The True Tails of Baker and Taylor: The Library Cats Who Left Their Pawprints on a Small Town . . . and the World by Jan Louch Lisa Rogak.
Contributed by Joan Wagner, Chief Librarian, Bay Shore
Baker and Taylor. (2019). Retrieved Mar 1, 2019, from https://www.baker-taylor.com
Fratello, J. (2016, April 27). How library cats Baker and Taylor ‘read’ their way into America’s hearts. Retrieved Mar 1, 2019, from Today: https://www.today.com/pets/how-library-cats-baker-taylor-read-their-way-america-s-t88616
Mlynar, P. (2016, May 12). Baker and Taylor Were Library Cats and Accidental Celebrities. Retrieved Mar 1, 2019, from Catster: https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/baker-and-taylor-were-library-cats-and-accidental-celebrities