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More than just Rodent Control: A Transdisciplinary Study on Library Cats and their Impact on the Library as Third Place

By Silvana Lotz

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Abstract

Introduction. The traditional purpose of library cats has been to keep rodents away. Today most resident library cats can be found in the United States where they even seem to serve other purposes. The aim of this study is to analyze how library cats affect the library’s role as third place in its local community.

Theory. Oldenburg’s third place theory was used as a theoretical framework in conjunction with two theories from the field of Human–Animal Studies. Enders-Slegers applied Weiss’s theory on ‘social provisions’ on a human–animal relationship. Her adjusted theory was in this study applied on the patron–library cat relationship. Finally, concepts on the so called ‘communication link’ were used to analyze how a library cat influences communication and social interaction.                                                                        

Method. A content analysis was conducted on two types of documents. 44 newsletters which were published by the Library Cat Society were used as historical sources. The second group of documents were the Facebook-pages of four current library cats and thus cover a more recent time period.                  

Analysis and Results. Cats in libraries create a playful and relaxing atmosphere. The majority of the library patrons enjoy the cat’s presence and participate in its care through regular visits and donations. Conversation between patrons and library employees increases and social integration is positively affected. The most common reasons for complaints are allergies as well as fear and dislike of cats.              

Conclusion. Library cats strenghten five of Oldenburg’s eight third place criteria and thus positively affect the library’s role as a meeting place. The cats even function as, what Oldenburg calls ‘regulars’, and the patrons were found to develop an emotional bond as well as a bond of trust towards the resident cat.  

Submitter

Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2017
Pages 84
ISBN/ISSN 1650-4267
Publisher Uppsala University
Location of Publication Uppsala, Sweden
Department Arts
Degree Humanities and Social Sciences
URL http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn%3Anbn%3Ase%3Auu%3Adiva-324652
Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Animal roles
  3. Cats
  4. Children
  5. Health
  6. Human-animal relationships
  7. Libraries
  8. Mammals
  9. Societies
  10. therapy animals