When the Friends of the Colusa County Library met on Feb. 27, 2020, they never dreamt it would be the last time they would be in a room together for more than a year.
After 13 months of existing in a virtual world, about 30 members came together on March 25 for an in-person gathering at the Community Theater.
“In reading the minutes, it was like opening a time capsule,” said President Cindy Pronsolino. “We were so hopeful for 2020.”
Although the group has met monthly on Zoom, the purpose of the larger gathering was to conduct their annual business of selecting new officers and setting goals for the coming year.
Pronsolino said that when the coronavirus pandemic started, the group quickly realized how devastating it could be on the activities of the organization, whose purpose is to raise money to purchase books for the Colusa County Free Library system.
Not only was The Bookworm Used Book Store closed for three months, but the group also had to cancel the annual May Surprise, their largest fundraiser of the year.
Despite the setback, Pronsolino said the community stepped up “in a big way” to keep the non-profit afloat through donations and memberships, which made up for the lost revenue.
“Things are looking very rosy for us,” Pronsolino said. “We’re doing well. We had a good end to 2020.”
The group, at their annual meeting, selected Pronsolino to continue as president in 2021. Nancy Newlin will serve as vice-president and Pam DaGrossa will continue as secretary. The group elected Debbie Rice as their new treasurer.
Rice is the manager of Colusa Umpqua Bank and is a member of the Colusa Rotary Club.
With COVID-19 restrictions loosening, Pronsolino said the group intends to resume somewhat normal activities the remainder of the year.
The group will meet at the Colusa Main Library in person on April 12 to plan for the annual May Surprise, which will be held on May 1, with modified activities.
At the Friends’ annual meeting last week, the group also enjoyed a presentation by local artist, book illustrator, and book designer, LK James, and her husband, author Mark Leidner.
James is a Colusa native and graduated from Colusa High School, before completing her education out of state. Her local artwork includes the Jay Street mural, which she painted for the city’s sesquicentennial in 2018, and the book return drop boxes at each of the library’s branches.
James is the author and illustrator of “The Full House and the Empty House,” and “Easy Cakes for Hard Times,” which are available at Davison’s Drug and lkjames.com.
Leidner is the author of two feature films and several books, including a collection of short stories “Under the Sea” and his recent release, “Returning the Sword to the Stone,” a book of poetry, which is available at Davison’s Drug or from the publisher, fonografeditions.com.
The couple met in North Hampton, Mass. over 10 years ago, James said, but married five years ago after reconnecting in Philadelphia, Pa., on Kentucky Derby weekend, in 2016.
“We bet on two horses and said if they won first and second place, we would get married,” James laughed. “So, we got married, kind of on a bet. We really wanted it and it worked out.”
The couple moved to Colusa in August, where they bounce ideas off each other and collaborate on projects. They also have an 18-month-old son.
James said she is looking forward to once again being able to read her books inside a classroom setting, which stopped at the onset of the pandemic.
“It’s fun to talk about children’s books to adults, but it doesn’t beat sharing them with kids,” she said.
James, who primarily illustrates children’s books, said she once tested her manuscripts on the children of friends, but having a child of her own has now changed the way she thinks about “picture books.”
James is currently working on “The Book of O,” named for her son’s first articulations when he points to something new in his world.
“Picking his brain for ideas is very fruitful…” James said. “I have maybe a good decade of having my own personal test subject.”