Raccoon Goes in Search of a Good Book at Brooklyn Library

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Maybe those dark circles around a raccoon's eyes come from reading too much -- and in the dark.

A specimen of the mammal -- better known for rummaging through trash cans -- snuck inside the basement of the Brooklyn Public Library main branch late last week. While the public portion of the library is still operating normally, the storage area has been closed to staff since Friday and will likely remain so for the next day or two.

Spokeswoman Malika Granville says the library's maintenance crew spotted the animal on one of the four lower decks where the library keeps surplus books and lesser-used canisters of microfilm.

"We have a really fearless group of maintenance workers," she told WNYC. "They said they weren't afraid. but they did see him in the building, there was a sighting of him, and they reported it immediately."

The library called in New York City Animal Care and Control, a nonprofit that runs the municipal animal shelter system. A private pest control service has laid traps. So far, Granville says, the raccoon hasn't been seen again and there's no evidence of damage.

The library hasn't been able to retrieve the materials stored in the basement for patrons since the raccoon was seen. Granville says that's to minimize contact between humans and animals.

"Our utmost priority is to make sure that our staff and customers are safe," she said. "To make sure that no harm or danger would come to them we thought it would be best to close it off."

She says an animal control expert is expected to visit the library again Monday or Tuesday to assess whether it's safe to open up the basement area again.

The library is located in the middle of acres of greenery: 580-acre Prospect Park is across a street (though lucky is the raccoon who could cross that thoroughfare without injury), while a smaller city park, Mount Prospect Park, lies just next door. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is down the street.

The city rounded up numerous raccoons in Central Park this winter and vaccinated them against rabies after an outbreak was discovered there. But Brooklyn has been relatively quiet, with just one documented rabies case, at Nevins and State Street, more than a mile away from the library, according to the Health Department.

Granville says she doesn't know how the raccoon got into the building but she does suspect a motive: She listed five books, all about raccoons, that can be found in the library's catalog.