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Glendale Central Library clips cat collection

Once popular department now gets few visitors so books are destined to go.

July 27, 2013|By Brittany Levine,
  • Cat books at the Glendale Public Library on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. The Glendale Central library still has a few leftover cat books its trying to get rid of in storage.
Cat books at the Glendale Public Library on Tuesday, July… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

Twenty years ago, Cindy Cleary was working in Glendale's Central Library when a recipe in a special collections room caught her eye.

It was a recipe for cooking a cat.

"That was a stunner when I came across that," said Cleary, who is now director of Library Arts & Culture for the city.

The cat-cooking recipe was part of an extensive collection of feline-related books at the Glendale Central Library that, at its height, was deemed the largest in the nation.

At one point, the collection had more than 4,000 cat-related books and other items, including cat magazines, photographs and calendars.  

But Glendale is giving up its claim, selling off valuable books, trying to unload others.

News of the retreat made cat enthusiasts hiss.

"I think this is a horrible time for them to do this," said Janiss Garza, an Eagle Rock resident who has written cat advice books and pens the popular blog,, featuring her Somali of 11 years. "Cats are so popular right now. They're all over the Internet."


But the Internet is partially to blame. The collection had once attracted serious cat researchers from far and wide. Librarians would field cat-related inquiries from as far away as Europe, Cleary said.

But eventually the phones stopped ringing and the researchers stopped coming. Before the books were put into storage, the library would get one or two people interested in seeing the collection every few months.

"We've been pondering for years whether it's really relevant to have a cat collection here," Cleary said. "The interest in it has really waned."

The collection began in the mid-1960s when the founders of the now-defunct Jewel City Cat Club — Sidney Roberta Billig and her husband, Dr. Harvey Billig — donated about 150 books.

The collection grew as the cat club continued to funnel donated items and the library purchased books to supplement it. And the library wasn't picky about titles. If it had "cat" in the title, they would likely take it, Cleary said.

The collection's growth tapered off in the 1990s after a recession rippled through city budgets.

Over the decades, the library had amassed serious books about cat health, heritage and breeding, as well as titles that included "Zodicat Speaks" by Doctor Zodicat, a hardcover that delves into why Taurus cats are lazy and Cancer cats are oddballs. And there was "Dear Tabby (Or Letters from the Purr-plexed)" — a parody of the popular "Dear Abby" newspaper column.

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