Previously on the Princh Library Blog, we have covered how libraries and cats are connected. In this week’s post, our guest writer Tatiana Tilly takes the spotlight from cats and discusses the topic of having a Facility Dog in a library! Enjoy!
We are so excited to introduce Red Deer Public Library’s new Facility Dog (in training!), Katja!
Who is Katja?
Katja is a Chocolate Labrador Retriever who loves cuddles, walks in a dog park, and her dog sister when she is off duty. She has yet to meet a vegetable she does not love! When Katja is on duty in the library, she is a very calm, friendly and well-behaved dog who offers a warm welcome to the library members of all ages and the library’s staff alike.
Katja comes from Cowboy Up Kennel, whose breeding program produced many successful companion, service and facility dogs for different service dog schools in Alberta.
Katja takes all her correspondence through her personal library people: Tatiana (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Karen (email@example.com). Tatiana, Karen and Katja are “Team Katja” and are working together to develop and deliver library programs that are enriched by Katja’s input and presence.
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What is a facility service dog?
There are many different types of service dogs: guide dogs, autism dogs, PTSD dogs, seizure alert dogs and mobility dogs. Each type of a service dog is trained to do different jobs for their handlers, helping them to navigate the world successfully.
Katja is a Facility Service Dog. That means that she is not attached to just one person but rather is here for the facility to enrich the library’s services and programs for the public. In Alberta, you can meet facility dogs in Police Victim Services units, senior homes, and schools. Katja is the first facility library dog in Alberta.
What will a Facility Service Dog do in the library?
RDPL has had the opportunity to train Katja to be the resident facility service dog who will be assisting in several library reading programs for all ages, and we can’t wait! Katja has met many humans in the library, schools, and malls in the last few months who ask us: Why do we want to have a dog in the library? What is her job going to be? Are there any special skills that she needs to have to be a library facility service dog? Is it rare to have a dog in a library?
Many libraries in the US and Canada have implemented programs where certified therapy dogs visit the library to listen to children read. According to the American Library Association (ALA), as of 2019, there were over 1,000 registered therapy animal programs in libraries across the US. This includes programs that involve dogs, cats, and other animals. However, the ALA does not have specific data on the number of dogs that work in libraries, but we know that over 60% of US colleges have a pet therapy program.
As we learned from a friendly Library Animals podcast, many libraries in North America have different creatures including, cats, chameleons, fire belly toads, teddy bear hamsters and an African Cichlid fish among others that help librarians make the library a fun and engaging place to come for kids and adults alike.
In Canada, the use of therapy dogs in libraries is also becoming increasingly popular. Many libraries in Canada now offer therapy dog programs, and some libraries have dedicated therapy dog teams that visit regularly. However, there is no comprehensive data available on the number of dogs that work in libraries in Canada.
RDPL had a few programs using volunteer therapy dogs in the past: Reading Tails in partnership with St. John’s Ambulance and Sit, Stay, Read with Isha, a semi-retired autism service dog.
We had therapy dogs and their handlers from the Central Alberta Humane Society visit the library and provide a casual opportunity to interact with the dogs for the library members as well. However, there has always been a larger demand for these programs than we could meet. To have team Katja available to work in all library branches and being able to schedule and plan programs with Katja’s presence will allow Red Deer Public Library to deliver library programs with Katja consistently to the community.
Katja is enrolled in the owner-based training program with Aspen Service Dogs, an Alberta Government Qualified Service Dog Organization. Katja regularly attends training sessions with the best service dog trainers from Aspen Service Dogs. Her training program is 2 years long and Katja is on the finish line this fall. We hope that she will graduate from the training in December 2023 and will accept a full-time position as a facility service dog at the library. According to her contract with the Red Deer Library Board, she is supposed to work 3 days a week.
Do you enjoy reading about facility dogs? Then you can look forward to the 2nd part of Katja’s story in RDPL soon!
We will be back with another interesting article from the library world soon!
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