One Gerbil To Go, Please. Hold the Tarantula

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The library of a Lindale, Ga., elementary school is giving new meaning to the term "shelf life.''

The Pepperell Elementary School library started an animal collection three years ago with the acquisition of a tarantula named Charlotte. The following year, after parents donated an aquarium, fish were added to the library. This year, five gerbils, bought with proceeds from the school's book sales, have joined the ensemble.

Now, along with their books, youngsters may check out a gerbil.

Neither the tarantula nor the fish are available for home visits, but the gerbils--one for each of Pepperell's five grades--may be checked out of the library on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Parents need only sign a permission sheet on which they also indicate when they can pick up the gerbil at school.

Jan Davis, the school's media specialist, credits a library in the Boston area with the idea. "They had a program where children could check pets out,'' she explains, "and the opportunity afforded itself this year at Pepperell.''

Although all students may borrow the gerbils, Ms. Davis says she has encouraged those who already have pets of their own to give first priority to those without pets.

Pupils whose parents have not allowed them to bring a gerbil home have at least been able to observe the animals daily in the library. And enthusiasm for watching the noncirculating Charlotte molt and eat crickets has also remained high, says Ms. Davis, who adds that she is already planning the arrival of next year's addition to the library zoo: a guinea pig.

Vol. 07, Issue 26

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