Even lions need to take a bath every once in a while.
And when those lions sit outside the New York Public Library’s Schwartzman Building on Fifth Avenue, you can imagine they get pretty grubby. That’s why, Gothamist reports, Patience and Fortitude will be concealed from view starting Sept. 2 for an approximately nine-week cleaning.
This is no easy soap-and-water scrub; the library’s $250,000 “Restore the Roar” fundraising campaign will support a laser cleanse as well as TLC to attend to cracks and dings that have developed in the marble felines since they were installed in 1911. (Their last cleaning was in 2011.)
So closely associated with the library are they that its logo is a stylized lion, adorning its borrowers’ cards, tote bags, neckties, magnets—even NYPL hoodies. They were named Patience and Fortitude by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia during the Great Depression.
No fewer than three picture books featuring the lions have been published in the past two years. In author Josh Funk and illustrator Stevie Lewis’ Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude, a concerned Fortitude finds himself wandering the library at night in search of Patience, who’s gone missing (to be found in the Children’s Center, natch). The two stone cats take a jaunt to Coney Island via the F train in Jessica M. Boehman’s The Lions at Night. And in The Night Library, by David Zeltser and illustrated by Raúl Colón, the two lions pay a visit to a young book-averse child, whose reluctance to read is turned around by a night in NYPL’s central library.
Young bookworms visiting the library during the lions’ cleaning will be disappointed not to see them in the marble, but their avatars will be easy to find.
Vicky Smith is the children’s editor.