Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dewey the Library Cat

         I’m in Spencer, Iowa this morning on the first day of a solo “Discover Iowa” trip.  My first stop today is the Spencer Library, home of “Dewey” the famous library cat and subject of a best-selling book.

This is Dewey’s story:  An unknown person placed the tiny kitten in the book drop of the Spencer Library and he was found on the bitterly cold morning of January 18, 1986 by head librarian, Vicky Myron.  The little kitten appeared bedraggled, cold and hungry but otherwise unharmed.  He was kept in the library for a few days before Vicki decided to make the library his permanent home.  The town council, along with a few citizens of Spencer, objected strenuously to this plan.  But most people seemed to like the idea of a library mascot and finally the town council gave in.  The library had a naming contest and chose the name of “Dewey Readmore Books”.  Dewey became a favorite, living at the library for 18 years, greeting people and comforting them, getting into kitty mischief at times too.  Dewey’s death in 2006 was a major event in this town.  He is buried in front of the library, a commemorative plaque placed on his grave.  After Dewey died the town commissioned an artist to create a town tile mosaic; the mosaic is in the town park, complete with a tile rendering of Dewey lying on top of a library book.  

"Dewey'" Immortalized in Tile.
I’m a cat lover and so here I am on my way to the library.  In the Spencer library I meet Jan, the librarian.  Vicky, the author of “Dewey”, has retired.  Jan shows me the book drop—the place of Dewey’s discovery—in the back of the library.  The library is hosting a special Dewey exhibit this month and I notice a display case filled with Dewey items.  There are copies of the Dewey book in 14 different languages, Dewey sweatshirts, pillows and jewelry —you get the idea. 

A few of the "Dewey" items on display in the Spencer Public Library.

         Last week a screenwriter was here, gathering information for her rendition of “Dewey”, the movie. Yes, a movie is in the making and the screenwriters wish to cast Meryl Streep as the librarian.   But not everyone in town is happy with all the fuss over Dewey.  An older man was picking up copies while I was in the library.  When he heard me mention Dewey he launched into a rant about people overrunning the town and making trouble, and all because of “that damn book”.  “Just wait until the movie comes out”, he grumbled, “then things will really be crazy around here.”  
Uh oh, seems I’m one of those people overrunning the town.  Actually, I might feel the same way if this was my hometown.  But this town is already located near a tourist area—that of the Iowa Great Lakes—so hopefully a few more Dewey fans won’t make much of a difference.
         I have my picture taken with Dewey’s statue and visit his gravesite.  And then I leave the town of Spencer, continuing on to discover more of Iowa’s hidden treasures.

Dewey's portrait.
Vickie Myron had Dewey photographed on a whim, long before she had thoughts of writing a book.  That decision probably helped the book become a best-seller; this compelling portrait is on the cover.

Memorial plaque at Dewey's gravesite.

         To read more about "Dewey" go to:
For Iowa travel information visit:

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful tale. A place I'd probably never visit, but now on my list. Thanks for the great story and travel tip!