While the ownership of Baker & Taylor may have changed in the past weeks, the story of the two Scottish Fold cats Baker and Taylor, which have come to symbolize the company’s library wholesale division, endures. The two cats, which were named for the distributor, have appeared on the company’s posters and tote bags at book conventions and library shows for many years.
In her first book, 84-year-old Jan Louch, the assistant librarian who picked out, named, and cared for Baker and Taylor, teamed with bestselling author Lisa Rogak to recount the duo’s life story in The True Tails of Baker and Taylor: The Library Cats Who Left Their Pawprint on a Small Town (St. Martin’s/Dunne, May). These two library cats became feline celebrities long before YouTube or Grumpy Cat. In 1983, the year they were introduced to control mice, circulation at the Minden, Nev., branch of the Douglas County Library rose 17%. The cats received hundreds of birthday and Christmas cards and drew visitors to the tiny town, population 3,001 in 2010.
Louch had long wanted to write a book about the cats. But it wasn’t until Rogak contacted her that she got past false starts to tell their tale. Together Rogak and Louch expanded the story beyond Baker and Taylor. The book includes profiles of the cat’s vet, Bob Gorrindo, and other library cats, like Tober in Thornton, Ind., who became the cover cat on the 2014 Baker & Taylor Calendar. In one profile, mystery and fantasy writer Carole Nelson Douglas spoke about deciding to feature Baker and Taylor in her first Midnight Louie novel, Catnap, after seeing so many bags with the pair at ABA, now BEA. The novel is set at a booksellers’ convention.
For Louch, the book also gave her an opportunity to talk about the importance of pets in her life, not just the two famous cats. The book opens with her first one, the fox terrier Scrapper, who stopped a would-be kidnapper from taking then 18-month-old Louch.
“For me,” Rogak tells Show Daily, “writing this was more like writing a novel. There were four story lines—the cats, Jan, the town, and how technology in libraries was rapidly changing from card catalogues and date due stamps.” She also had to do a lot of research on the cats. Rogak, who has written more than 40 books since she started in 1990, calls it a “very challenging” project. “But in the end,” she adds, “we were both happy with the way the book turned out.”
As for Baker and Taylor, although they have long since passed on to cat heaven, Louch and Rogak’s book, which commemorates their lives, is on display at the St. Martin’s booth (1958).
This article appeared in the May 11, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.