Might look off topic, but isn’t: $1.25 million for a story about a cat!

A post on booktruck.org led me to a story in the New York Times:

“In a hotly contested deal, the life story of Dewey, a rescued cat who lived for 19 years in a library in a small town in Iowa, has sold for about $1.25 million to Grand Central Publishing. “

One of the co-authors will be Vicki Myron, the head librarian in Spencer, Iowa. The hope is that this will be the Marley & Me for cat-lovers. I admit, it’s a great story:

“Dewey,” which was sold on the basis of a 45-page proposal with about 10 photos of the fluffy orange cat, will tell the story of how the kitten was found in the late-night book drop of the public library in Spencer, a town in the northwest part of the state, and adopted by Ms. Myron and the other librarians. Slowly, over the course of his 19-year life, Dewey became a town mascot who lifted the spirits of residents hit hard by the 1980s farming crisis. In the process he attracted the attention of tourists, cat-calendar makers and filmmakers. He appeared in “Puss in Books: Adventures of the Library Cat,” a 1997 documentary, and another film made by Japanese documentarians. When he died last November, his obituary ran in more than 250 publications, including USA Today and The Washington Post.”

[Apologies to my friend at the Order from Chaos blog–my first thought was to send this link to you to write about–but hey, I couldn’t resist.]

On my list of things to do (it’s a long list), is to write a book about archives that will be as big as Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust. You’ll probably recognize her because she was the model for the popular (in some circles) librarian action figure. I think I can do it–the book will be a spinoff from my podcast series (I haven’t forgotten about that project, friends).

And, in case you missed it, librarians also recently got a shout out (of a kind) from one of my heroes, Stephen Colbert. In an interview with John Perry Barlow about copyright, Stephen “trademarked” the phrase “librarians are hiding something” because “no one has ever said that before.” You can see the video here, courtesy of the Shifted Librarian.

What does all this have in common and why did I say it’s not off topic? It’s about public visibility for a profession–about being part of the popular culture. And I don’t think we’re there yet, even with National Treasure. What do we have to do to get million dollar book deals, New York Times bestsellers, action figures, and a moment of glory from Stephen (and a mention in Wired, per earlier post)? Or do some of you think we shouldn’t be doing those things?

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One thought on “Might look off topic, but isn’t: $1.25 million for a story about a cat!”

  1. I probably don’t need to say this yet again, but I think that it’s not only advantageous, but crucial that archives (and I use the term really loosely) take on a public presence, not only in popular culture, but in civic, cultural and academic life. And I think it’s happening, but not nearly as big or as fast as we should hope. I do think that the public ultimately associates the services that libraries provide on a day-to-day basis with the long-term care and keep of cultural materials, and so strides for libraries benefit archives in the end.

    But in some ways I think it’s good that we don’t have a Nancy Pearl (although I love NP) . Every region has a corny loudmouthed (usually ancient) booster of archives, and those people always seem to have such an uncomplicated relationship with the past. Archives need thoughtful and open public face in order to make any sense at all.

    Okay, I could say so much more about this, but I’ll stop and say that I really like what you’re doing here. Thanks for linking to us, and I hope you find what we’re doing slightly amusing.

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