Books are said to expand new horizons for readers. In Cooper Landing, the new library cards offer a vista, as well.
Each card is a small, laminated copy of a scratchboard drawing by Tony Morgan, an artist who grew up in the unincorporated riverside town and now lives in St. Helens, Oregon. It shows a book with the name of the library on it, set against the backdrop of a mountain and layers of trees.
“The scratchboard has a clay backer on it, and it’s painted with ink, and then you go in and scratch out the parts you don’t want, basically,” Tony said.
“Then I kind of, with the color and everything, I went through and I drew it,” he added. “I think I did another hand-drawn ink layer and then just did it in my digital spot color, so it looks kind of like those WPA posters from the ’40s.”
The keychain version of the card shows the Kenai River weaving through the mountains, a view apropos of Cooper Landing.
Cooper Landing Community Library is housed in a small log building with no running water and an outhouse in the back, on Bean Creek Road off the Sterling Highway. It’s completely volunteer run.
Virginia Morgan is the library’s assistant director and the artist’s sister. Both she and Tony started volunteering at the library in high school.
Virginia said the library has already signed up 45 Cooper Landing residents for cards since rolling them out a month or so ago. They ordered 1,000 total, from Lucas Color Card in Oklahoma.
The new cards have been in the works since 2017, said Virginia.
“Before these new library cards, we just had little cardboard, little paper cards with a number,” she said, “and every book had a pocket with a card in it. It was the old system of, we stamp a due date and put a person’s number on there by hand. And that’s how we checked our items out.”
The timing of all of this ultimately worked out perfectly — September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month.
Virgina said some, who feel connected to their old numbers, have been resistant to switching over from their old cards. Their numbers will change when they get their new ones.
The cards come as the library is starting to open back up and offer a curbside pick-up service Fridays. The library closed in March, amid the pandemic.
Throughout the last few months, residents could pick up free books that staff put outside or access the library WiFi through a password posted on the door.
“The library, for some people, is their only source of internet,” Virginia said. “And we didn’t want to cut off that access.”
Coronavirus also put a halt to the process of digitizing the library’s catalog.
“We had to convert all of our records, or basically start over with all of our records, and with no paid staff and everybody just putting in time when they can, volunteering,” Virginia said. “It’s been a slow process. But we finally completed it this summer.”
This way, users can browse the library’s contents online and see which books are available.
Both the new library cards and the transition to the online catalog were made possible by a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation.
The Cooper Landing Community Library will soon begin offering audiobook and ebook services through Overdrive, a service used by the Kenai and Soldotna libraries. Virginia said the library expects that to come within this fiscal year.
Cooper Landing residents can sign up for library cards though the library website, on the Online Catalog page. Once on that page, click “sign up” to register.
Each resident who signs up for a library card will also get a tote bag with Tony’s illustration on it.