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The Birds and the Books

Memphis College of Art student designs new library card.

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The city's library cards are getting an artistic makeover.

A new design for the cards, created by Memphis College of Art (MCA) student Clare Caldwell, was presented at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library last week.

Caldwell is one of six students in MCA's "Give Back Program," a work-study program that allows students to volunteer for local nonprofits while earning scholarship funds in the process. The six Give Back students each created original designs for the new card, and library patrons voted for their favorite on the Memphis Public Library's website.

Caldwell's illustration won the vote, and her design will be the new image on all city-issued library cards. Caldwell's design features a mother bird feeding her baby bird in a nest made from an open book.

"Rather than choosing a specific place or monument, I wanted to work with nurturing images and books," Caldwell said. "I hope it encourages kids to utilize the resources of the library and helps everyone keep up with their cards."

The students submitted 15 sketches last fall. The designs were revised several times before library staff narrowed the best four of the 15 designs. Those four designs were placed online in February, and patrons had three weeks to vote on their favorites. Although the design was selected last spring, the new cards weren't ready until last week.

Some other designs included a cup of tea sitting next to an open book, a watercolor portrait of the Central Library, and an illustration of people reading.

"It's wonderful to have selected a card that reflects the community's input," said Keenon McCloy, director of the Memphis Public Library. "I think the process was really positive, both for us as staff as well as for the community, because we really do want the community's input for any kind of services we deliver or changes that we make."

McCloy said there were three criteria library staff looked for in the competition: "To reflect the mission of the library, to embrace the spirit and cultural ambience indigenous to Memphis, and to celebrate the city's diversity. We wanted a card that captured all three of those items in one card."

Gadsby Creson, coordinator for the Give Back program, said the competition is a good example of the projects students participate in through the MCA program.

"The submissions for this project will become portfolio pieces for the students involved, and they all gained experience working with a real client," Creson said. "We believe that these projects ensure our students' success after graduation."

There were 75,000 wallet-sized cards and 50,000 keychain cards available at the unveiling last Tuesday, which will supply the library for the next three years. Library cards will be free to new customers, but existing patrons will have to pay $1 for the new cards.

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