Blog Reflection – Hyperlinked Communities

I loved the readings for this module, along with the excellent lecture ending with finger guns caused by iced tea consumption.  Truly incredible, and the humor made it all the more engaging.

I’d like to talk about my own personal experiences with hyperlinked communities in the library.  A couple years ago I used to volunteer regularly (once or twice a week, every week) at the local public library.  I live in Oakland, California, so as you can imagine in a large city, there’s several libraries.  At the main branch I assisted in planting, watering, maintaining and cleaning the container gardens outside the children’s room.  I truly enjoyed this experience, as I love gardening, but when I started volunteering at the Cesar Chavez library branch in the Fruitvale district, I noticed some significant differences.  For one, the Fruitvale branch has a much higher population of latinx folks than the rest of Oakland, and the library reflects that.  They’re the only Oakland Public Library branch to have a seed library in the building!

I would come in weekly to maintain the seed library (a card-catalog re-purposed to hold seeds of culturally appropriate foods for the community), replenish the flyers, water the container gardens, harvest some tomatoes, beans, peppers, and basil.  It was great.  But what I noticed at this library was the community engagement surrounding it.  On every Wednesday, a group of mothers, grandmothers, and women would come in, sit near the children’s play area, and make crafts together.  Sometimes it was sewing, other times it was making puppets for Dios de la Muerte, and other times it was crafts.  Every week I came, regardless of it there were children there or not, those women were there, sitting together, talking with one another, and building things together.  It’s obviously stuck with me because it was one of the first times I really recognized the library as a community meeting spot, as a place where those that live in the community come to gather, share stories, and participate.  The library felt more alive than the other branches to me, as I was seeing a hyperlinked community in action, and to me it became a real and essential part of the library’s identity.

Bonus photo from their facebook page:

4 Responses to “Blog Reflection – Hyperlinked Communities”

  • Sarah Crawford

    I lived in Berkeley for five years. Having moved to the ‘burbs of Vallejo I really miss what urban libraries are doing. Seed libraries? Culturally appropriate produce? Omfg I love it. Not to knock Solano County (they have great stuff, too) but I get so darn excited when I see what Oakland and Berkeley libraries are up to. As a new gardener I also love the idea of a seed library.

    • Nathan Perry

      Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment. And as it turns out, you may be in luck! According to this article the Springstowne Library may have a seed lending library! This article is over four years old, so it might have been something they tried and moved on from, but the next time you’re there, you might want to ask a librarian if there is one tucked away. It often is a filing cabinet. Congratulations on becoming a new gardener, may your plants be fruitful and delicious!

  • Mary

    Nathan, what exactly is a seed library? How do you “borrow” a seed? Can people “donate” seeds as well? It’s funny, when I’m imagining doing something on my computer like creating sound for my slideshows, for example, my first response is always, “I bet google has a way to do that”. And, most of the time, they do. Now I’m starting to think if I am wondering where to find something or meet people, a library, somewhere, has the thing or has the get together. Now, how can we link all those libraries together into one big google!

  • Michael Stephens

    ” The library felt more alive than the other branches to me..” I so appreciate stories like this. It feels as though that branch was doing the right things to reach the community. It also feels like this was a “home grown” solution steeped in the needs and interest of the folks served. Thanks for sharing.

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