Libraries provide more to their communities than books. Lately, Eugene Public Library patrons have been checking out things like cake pans, board games, even a sewing machine. You can even check out a cat from the library.
OK, it’s not a real cat.
It’s a robot cat. But it’s fluffy and it purrs. Kate Berry is an adult services supervisor with the Eugene Public Library.
“We have three that circulate,” Berry said, holding the fuzzy robot kitty. “We have one in each branch. They all look the same. But they do have particular names to them. If you’re curious, they’re Bandit, Mr. Pickles, and Percival. Those were chosen by staff.”
The cats are black and white with green eyes. And while anyone can take one home…
“They’re typically for folks who maybe are suffering memory loss or maybe just are living alone and kind of lonely,” Berry said. “But really anyone can check them out. They purr. They meow. They’re really fun to have.”
Berry’s coworker, Heather Sears, a children’s services supervisor, said the staff were so fond of the cats that they also got a couple for themselves. The staff cats are gray and white.
“Because they’re really calming,” Sears said. “There’s research that shows cats purring is therapeutic. So we have a kind of quiet room that we have placed one of our cats. Staff have actually really enjoyed that — maybe you had a stressful part of your day or something’s happened and you just need a moment, and you can come hang out with one of our cats that are here that are not circulating.”
Sears said the cats are a newer addition to the Library of Things, but there’s already a waiting list for them. Just like books, you need a library card to check them out. Unlike books, items from the Library of Things often come with instructions.
“We have cake pans. We have games people can check out. Both lawn games and board games. Technology,” said Berry. “We have many things people can check out that are not typical library offerings.”
Cats are part of Library of Things collection
The Library of Things has been around since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Berry says they are always adding to the collection.
“We have ukuleles. But now we’ve added a keyboard, some guitars, tongue drums. We added some educational toys,” said Berry. “We’re kind of thinking of ways to have a lot of things that cover a wide variety of interests while also being able to have those things circulate well to many many people.”
Sears said they have to think about how to care for items and keep track of all the pieces and provide good instructions. They offer air quality monitors, for example, that need to be reset for each use. They also offer large items.
“We have some really large lawn toys that are quite heavy. That can sometimes be hard to get home,” Sears said. “Our cornhole set is heavy and large. And it takes some getting out of the door. So there’s lots of things we need to think about because they’re not traditional and they’re not a book you can just put in a bag. So, they all have their own unique challenges, I think.”
Sears says for the most part, people are good about following the directions and bringing items back intact. It’s a very popular program.
“I have yet to have a Library of Things item be something that nobody wants,” Sears said. “I would say, usually the lawn games tend to not be as popular come January.”
Sears said keeping up with demand can be challenging.
“Honestly, the hard part is just having enough copies of things and getting stuff out fast enough is usually — it takes a long time to process everything, and so we can only do so many Library of Things items per month,” Sears said.
The Library of Things was initially funded by the Eugene Public Library Foundation. Sears and Berry said they appreciate getting suggestions for new items, but they don’t take donated items.
And if you want a cozy cat to cuddle with on a rainy day while you read your library books, then Bandit, Mr. Pickles, or Percival are here for you.
“The goal is for them to be able to brush it, have it sit on their lap, talk to it as if it were a real cat,” Berry said.