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Library board to vote on cat’s fate

The Pulaski County Library Board spent two hours of their monthly meeting last night discussing a subject they had probably never breached in a meeting before: cats.
Their discussion focused on one feline in particular: Belle, a cat adopted through the Pulaski County Humane Society, who has taken on the role of "library cat" for the Dublin Library since 2006.
However, complaints from library patrons about Belle have led the Library Board to consider the liabilities of having a library cat. Ultimately, the board will vote to decide whether Belle will continue to live at the Dublin Library.
In regards to complaints, board member Nancy Hudson, who served as co-interim director for the Pulaski County Public Library system for several months this past winter, said she received two verbal complaints about Belle. She said one case involved a patron with cat allergies, and another involved a child not being able to use a computer because Belle was lying on top of it.
Besides allergies, concerns have also been raised to the board about Belle being in the library’s water fountain, the possibility of a patron tripping over her, furniture and equipment being damaged, or the possibility of patrons, particularly children, being scratched.
Board Chairman John Freeman commented that he had wrestled with this situation, and that "common sense has always kept him on the side of caution."
He said that as chairman of Library Board, he has to question, "Am I being a good steward for the tax payers of Pulaski County?"
Assistant County Administrator Robert Hiss said that in speaking to the county’s insurance carrier, they "weren’t thrilled" about the idea, but that the carrier said this would definitely have to be a local decision.
In speaking with the Department of Justice and disability organizations, Hiss said he was told that a cat allergy is not a disability, so the libraries do not have to take any special actions to cater to those with cat allergies as they do for people with real disabilities.
Hiss said the best advice he got during his research was that if the board decides to keep Belle at the library, they need to make sure they "limit their liability," by doing things such as making sure Belle’s vaccines are up to date, looking in to the possibility of having her de-clawed, and placing her in a different area of the library at the request of patrons with allergies.
Board member Joe Slaughter said his perspective on this situation is probably different from his fellow board members because he has worked as a safety inspector in the past. He said in his experiences with that job, animals were not to be allowed in the workplace, so that’s how he still sees the situation.
Another board member, Martha Jackson, who noted that she is a cat lover, commented that "taking the emotion out of this situation is difficult," but from the perspective of a board member, she has to take in to account liability costs.
"I hate that we have to be so cautious, but people will sue," she said, adding that the "minute the county has to pay for a law suit, their insurance policy will go up."
However, members of the library board were not the only ones taking part in the discussion about Belle during the meeting. About 20 members of the community attended the meeting to show their support for keeping Belle at the library.
Elmer Roush presented the board with a petition that had circulated within Dublin and Pulaski over the weekend. The petition was in support of having a library cat.
"Why is Belle such a liability now, when she wasn’t three years ago (when she was adopted)?" Roush asked the board. "And if liability is such an issue, what about the books on the shelves, or computer cords? They could be a liability too."
Bill Bryant, president of the Pulaski County Humane Society, presented the board with several articles about library cats, including "Freckles," the library cat at Wesleyan College, and spoke about the use of cats in libraries throughout history to prevent mice from destroying books.
"Libraries and cats have gone together for centuries," he said, adding that cats "foster camaraderie" with library patrons and staff, and "play a role in inspiring literature awareness."
He also said that library cats can be good marketing and fundraising icons for libraries.
Dorothy Gooch also addressed the board, and pointed out a health survey that suggested that having pets can help people lower their blood pressure, along with their cholesterol and stress levels, and even help them quit smoking.
As for having Belle at the Dublin Library, she said "you don’t know who is coming to visit the library or why, but that cat might be their saving grace."
She also made the suggestion that coverage be added to the county’s insurance to cover the liability of having a library cat, and that interested patrons and members of the community could help cover the cost.
Jennifer Wharton, who moved with her husband and three young children from Missouri to Pulaski County within the last week, said she was online looking for a local library, and out of all the libraries she found, she chose to go to the Dublin Library because of Belle.
"It’s a small library, so it needs that extra special something, like Belle, to draw people in," she said.
Originally, the board had planned to vote on Belle’s fate during the meeting, but at the request of board member Mason Vaughn, who wanted to research this topic further, ended up tabling the matter until their next meeting.
Jackson suggested that library director Sally Warburton compile a packet of information on the pros of keeping Belle at the library, which all board members would be required to read and sign off on before the next meeting.
"I think we owe it to the people who showed up and who were so passionate about this issue," she said.
The board agreed and plans to vote at their next meeting (after reading the packet), which will be held Tuesday, May 26 at 5 p.m. at the Pulaski Library.

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Library board to vote on cat’s fate

The Pulaski County Library Board spent two hours of their monthly meeting last night discussing a subject they had probably never breached in a meeting before: cats.
Their discussion focused on one feline in particular: Belle, a cat adopted through the Pulaski County Humane Society, who has taken on the role of "library cat" for the Dublin Library since 2006.
However, complaints from library patrons about Belle have led the Library Board to consider the liabilities of having a library cat. Ultimately, the board will vote to decide whether Belle will continue to live at the Dublin Library.
In regards to complaints, board member Nancy Hudson, who served as co-interim director for the Pulaski County Public Library system for several months this past winter, said she received two verbal complaints about Belle. She said one case involved a patron with cat allergies, and another involved a child not being able to use a computer because Belle was lying on top of it.
Besides allergies, concerns have also been raised to the board about Belle being in the library’s water fountain, the possibility of a patron tripping over her, furniture and equipment being damaged, or the possibility of patrons, particularly children, being scratched.
Board Chairman John Freeman commented that he had wrestled with this situation, and that "common sense has always kept him on the side of caution."
He said that as chairman of Library Board, he has to question, "Am I being a good steward for the tax payers of Pulaski County?"
Assistant County Administrator Robert Hiss said that in speaking to the county’s insurance carrier, they "weren’t thrilled" about the idea, but that the carrier said this would definitely have to be a local decision.
In speaking with the Department of Justice and disability organizations, Hiss said he was told that a cat allergy is not a disability, so the libraries do not have to take any special actions to cater to those with cat allergies as they do for people with real disabilities.
Hiss said the best advice he got during his research was that if the board decides to keep Belle at the library, they need to make sure they "limit their liability," by doing things such as making sure Belle’s vaccines are up to date, looking in to the possibility of having her de-clawed, and placing her in a different area of the library at the request of patrons with allergies.
Board member Joe Slaughter said his perspective on this situation is probably different from his fellow board members because he has worked as a safety inspector in the past. He said in his experiences with that job, animals were not to be allowed in the workplace, so that’s how he still sees the situation.
Another board member, Martha Jackson, who noted that she is a cat lover, commented that "taking the emotion out of this situation is difficult," but from the perspective of a board member, she has to take in to account liability costs.
"I hate that we have to be so cautious, but people will sue," she said, adding that the "minute the county has to pay for a law suit, their insurance policy will go up."
However, members of the library board were not the only ones taking part in the discussion about Belle during the meeting. About 20 members of the community attended the meeting to show their support for keeping Belle at the library.
Elmer Roush presented the board with a petition that had circulated within Dublin and Pulaski over the weekend. The petition was in support of having a library cat.
"Why is Belle such a liability now, when she wasn’t three years ago (when she was adopted)?" Roush asked the board. "And if liability is such an issue, what about the books on the shelves, or computer cords? They could be a liability too."
Bill Bryant, president of the Pulaski County Humane Society, presented the board with several articles about library cats, including "Freckles," the library cat at Wesleyan College, and spoke about the use of cats in libraries throughout history to prevent mice from destroying books.
"Libraries and cats have gone together for centuries," he said, adding that cats "foster camaraderie" with library patrons and staff, and "play a role in inspiring literature awareness."
He also said that library cats can be good marketing and fundraising icons for libraries.
Dorothy Gooch also addressed the board, and pointed out a health survey that suggested that having pets can help people lower their blood pressure, along with their cholesterol and stress levels, and even help them quit smoking.
As for having Belle at the Dublin Library, she said "you don’t know who is coming to visit the library or why, but that cat might be their saving grace."
She also made the suggestion that coverage be added to the county’s insurance to cover the liability of having a library cat, and that interested patrons and members of the community could help cover the cost.
Jennifer Wharton, who moved with her husband and three young children from Missouri to Pulaski County within the last week, said she was online looking for a local library, and out of all the libraries she found, she chose to go to the Dublin Library because of Belle.
"It’s a small library, so it needs that extra special something, like Belle, to draw people in," she said.
Originally, the board had planned to vote on Belle’s fate during the meeting, but at the request of board member Mason Vaughn, who wanted to research this topic further, ended up tabling the matter until their next meeting.
Jackson suggested that library director Sally Warburton compile a packet of information on the pros of keeping Belle at the library, which all board members would be required to read and sign off on before the next meeting.
"I think we owe it to the people who showed up and who were so passionate about this issue," she said.
The board agreed and plans to vote at their next meeting (after reading the packet), which will be held Tuesday, May 26 at 5 p.m. at the Pulaski Library.

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