Library gardens are everywhere and in every shape and size imaginable: community gardens, vegetable gardens, pollinator gardens, flower gardens, reading gardens, contemplative gardens, sensory gardens, rock gardens. But how do these spaces relate to the library? How are they different than landscaping besides the fact that they seem like a lot more work? Banks and Mediavilla define a library garden as follows: library gardens “are purposely created to extend and enhance the library’s role as an information center and community space” (pg. X). Gardens are versatile and diverse in nature, which allows the trend to be shaped and molded to fir the local library’s need and vision.
For the symposium, I decided to make a collection of bookmarks highlighting some of the course’s catch-phrases. I’m especially inspired by the concepts of creating and making in the library in our daily lives. Libraries are for everyone. Playing and exploring is for everyone. No matter our ages, intellect, skills, abilities, or any of the other ways we try to measure the people around us. Learning is for everyone, both the patrons of our libraries and the staff members who support them. The library isn’t a building or its collection, it’s the combined knowledge and stories of the people who use them. I believe something that sets the Librarian apart from other disciplines is our desire to share. We have something we know is valuable, whether it is books, art, a hyperlink, or a story, and we want to share it with our communities.
The bookmarks don’t take up much space, but they hold some of my favorite takeaways from this class. I tried something new and outside of my comfort zone, so I’m proud of them. Working with the media in this class makes me want to try my hand at visual art: photography and picture books, here I come?
Feel free to print off for personal use! Below are the PDF versions if that’s helpful to anyone. Clicking on the title should bring it up in the browser if you don’t want to download to your device. 🙂
At the beginning of this year, my library branch (the Republic Branch of the Springfield Greene County Library District) decided to adopt Nature Literacy as our theme/focus. We began planning short- and long-term programming and service goals with this theme in mind, and in doing so the idea of an outdoor space or library garden came up as a potential long-term goal. I am very excited to see where the Nature Literacy focus takes us, so I took the opportunity to use this assignment to further explore the idea of gardens and outdoor play spaces for libraries. I will likely use these two terms interchangeably as my plan creates a hybrid of these two services.
The Hyperlinked Library Model and Library Gardens
There are a number of ways in which outdoor play spaces can relate to the Hyperlinked Library Model (Stephens 2020) and the branch-off ideas that accompany it.
The Library is Everywhere: this space would not only be located outside of the physical four walls of the library, but it would also encourage exploration of the natural world beyond library property from backyards to parks to fields and streams.
Library as Classroom: the outdoor play space would cultivate learning and love of the natural world.
Hyperlinks are people too: Similar to the StoryWalk example Stephens (2020) gives, this outdoor space would bring together many members of the community through both partnerships brought together to build and maintain the space, as well as using the space would create a low-stakes place to meet with other people.
There will always be some amount of chaos: The space would break out of “inside voices” and “walking feet” mold, instead it would be focused on exploration and play. Without a controlled, indoor environment this creates a place that will hold some inherent risk.
Goals & Objectives
The garden is intended to be a place full of life where the community of Republic can sit, read, relax, or play and explore. A place where individuals can come together and chat or simply reflect on the beauty around them. In regard to nature, the garden will promote a love of learning and a love of nature through outdoor experiences. By its existence and the programming created for this space, the garden will show that nature is for everyone to care about and enjoy.
Promote a love of learning and nature through outdoor play
Create authentic, incidental interactions with nature and other people
Further nature literacy programming goals for the Republic Branch
Create inclusive programming and features that are welcoming to and usable for multiple age groups.
Description of the Community: The library garden aims to engage the community of Republic, Missouri, especially families with children eight years old and younger.
Action Brief: Convince the community of Republic, MO that by using the library garden they will have authentic interactions and learning experiences with nature and each other. These experiences will foster an affinity for nature, passion for our community, and a love of learning for all ages. A strong community and lifelong learning are two direct aims of the Springfield-Greene County Library as a whole.
The mission of this space will seek to follow both Springfield-Greene County Library’s (SGCL) mission statement and the general mission of the Republic Branch’s short and long term programming goals. This space will also adhere to SGCL’s general conduct and youth safety policies. Necessary alterations and expansions of these policies will be established by SGCL’s associate director and Republic’s branch manager, with consideration given to staff’s opinions. Example policies can be sought out from any library that has already implemented a similar service. LaStella (2020) noted that policies for the Nature Explorium at Middle Country Public Library were largely general conduct policies with a few changes to better fit the needs of the Explorium.
It is intended that this space be safe but not so bound by rules and regulations that play and incidental learning cannot take place, so a closely monitored balancing act must be considered between due diligence for safety and reasonable risk.
As part of the mission of this space, attempts will be made through pre-programming (both passive and active), surveys, and other means to hold conversations with both children and parents who are the target audience for this space. The intension of these conversations will be to enhance user experience, inclusivity, and listen to the needs and ideas of the community we wish to serve. Since this space is primarily for children, the article “Honoring the Child’s Voice in Design” will be used to help generate ideas for how to interact with young patrons in order to gain their insights in designing and implementing this space.
Friends of the Library and the Library Foundation: the Friends and the Library Foundation often provide support for large and small projects as well as programming. The nature garden project aligns with the goals of both of these organizations, and the Foundation in particular has the ability to garner additional aid from our community.
Donor Brick Sale: Library had this idea, and the City of Republic has done this at its Veteran’s memorial already, so theoretically it would be feasible to do this again. Other libraries, such as Boyle County Public Library, have used donor bricks in their gardens.
Search other grant funding options: there are many libraries doing outdoor spaces and many of them have suggestions for funding and where to find grants.
We can also request time, discounts, partnerships, and materials donations from local businesses.
C&H Plants (Local Greenhouse/Nursery)
Walmart & Lowes (Plants and Building supplies)
Missouri State University–College of Agriculture
Ozarks Technical Community College–Agriculture Department
Republic Highschool, Republic Middle School, local 4-H chapters, and Boy/Girl Scouts– seek relationships and partnerships with these schools and organizations to encourage youth in the community to assist in building and maintaining the garden.
Local venders for wood/landscaping, etc.
Action Steps & Timeline
Because the garden is to be an extension of the nature literacy initiative at the Republic Branch, there are already a couple of steps staff and management is taking, which will build up to this garden. Programming and displays have already begun to lean towards nature literacy elements, but it has been mostly on the staff-side of things. Patrons may be aware of the development, but due to COVID, regular steps such as in-person programming and signage has not begun. Beyond this shift in focus or “theme”, the first major step towards an outdoor space for the branch will be bird feeding stations, which are to be set up in what would become the library garden space.
Bird watching/feeding stations outside of window.
Picnic Table or Bench and Fencing: A picnic table would be easier to implement first, however risk/danger would have to be evaluated due to the parking lot and swampy area behind the building being reasonably nearby. The area at this point would not be intended as a play space, merely a place to read or eat outside, or watch the birds, and children would be expected to have accompanying adults.
Build a couple garden boxes and plant seeds from SGCL’s heirloom seed library. Staff would be largely responsible for the maintenance at this point, but support from regular patrons and partnerships could begin to be garnered.
Full Project Timeline
Execution and timeline of the new project would largely depend on funding and staff availability. However, assuming full support, the following would be a reasonable
Winter 2022: Republic Branch staff would begin having dedicated staff time and planning spent on this project. This may include more serious preliminary sketches for ideas, especially for marketing the idea to patrons.
Spring & Summer 2022: Begin engaging patrons and community in user opinions regarding the use and design of the space. This would include asking assistance from local schools to talk to their students. Summer would be a good time to introduce brick fundraising to patrons.
End of Summer/Fall 2022: Decisions regarding design and patron’s ideas would be in with enough time to change preliminary ideas.
Fall 2022: Evaluation of patron designs & growing season needs
Winter 2022-23: Another donor brick campaign if needed (brick funding would have continued to be available, but this would be a good time remind patrons).
Early Spring 2023: Prepare garden beds, set up fencing and benches. Begin cultivating seedlings if seeds are used instead of partially-grown plants.
After last frost: Planting begins.
Summer 2023: Full use of the garden is available.
This service should not require additional staff members. Current staff should treat this space as an additional department of the branch, making it subject to regular building walks, headcounts, and checkups. Staff can sign-up (or be assigned or on rotation for) responsibilities within the garden such as weeding, watering, and simple upkeep.
Larger maintenance and mowing/landscaping is handled by SGCL support staff and a lawn service. Support staff would be called upon as needed–and would be integral when building and setting up this space. The outsourced lawn service already mows the area the garden would be occupying, and if cost allows, may be called upon for additional services for this space.
Librarians who have successfully implemented similar service cite the need for partnerships and assistance from volunteers as important. The Nature Explorium has a seasonal garden that patrons assist in maintaining (LaStella, 2020). Especially as the program continues, support will be sought from regular patrons by way of sign-up sheets for watering/weeding schedules for families and other needs as volunteer knowledge and availability allows. Seasonal support from volunteers for seasonal maintenance such as planting and wintering flower/plant beds will need to be garnered and organized.
Volunteer help beyond regular patronage may be sought from local schools (especially Republic Middle and High Schools and the Republic campus of Ozarks Technical Community College) as well as local groups needing volunteer hours (Boy/Girl Scouts and 4H chapters). The Republic Parks and Recreation Department is a partnership that should be sought, even though staffing is unlikely, they have connections to the community–including volunteers–that may run in circles outside of the library’s purview and as such would be good partners in this endeavor.
Staff will largely learn as they go, gaining knowledge from other libraries that have implemented this service and also seeking knowledge from local resources about gardening, relevant webinars, and staff (including a master gardener) who have overseen SGCL’s heirloom seed library. These ideas are supported by the Let’s Move in Libraries Gardening page.
A set training plan for this service will likely be needed later in the implementation process–after some of the kinks have been worked out and there’s better real-world knowledge of how patrons use the space and problems that have arisen. Branch staff and management will be closely monitoring and managing this space with no outside assistance, so decisions for short-term usage will be made ultimately by the branch manager after discussions with staff.
In the beginning, it is assumed that many of the responsibilities will fall to branch staff (and support staff as appropriate). Discussions regarding staff management of the space can take place at regularly scheduled branch team meetings. Leaders for the project can be designated and duties delegated to staff.
As the project gains volunteers and experience (and as staff turnover occurs), training regarding the mission and needs of the space as well as general guidelines for planting, watering, weeding, and other maintenance may be created by branch staff and management.
Promotion & Marketing
Republic Branch’s programming goals include the introduction of Nature Literacy programming. This programming will be one of the strongest in-house way to support and promote the library garden. On top of general nature literacy programming, regular Story Time events are another opportunity to promote the garden.
Host programming (passive and active) designed to include the community in designing the space. Ask kids to draw a library garden or answer “For me, a story garden is…”. It would be helpful to have candy or small prizes to encourage participation.
Literature, signage, and digital promotion (library website and newsletters) around the branch and district. The Republic Branch is planning on adding circulating Nature Backpacks in 2021 as well as continuing StoryWalk programming. Both of these initiatives allow excellent opportunities for both literature, signage, and word of mouth promotion of the library garden.
Republic Branch already partners with Republic Parks & Recreation (RP&R) to provide StoryWalks (they allow us to set up the materials along the walking trails in community parks). Continuing to partner with RP&R would help us promote the library garden both with literature and by word of mouth, since RP&R is a large hub for the community both inside their building and in their parks.
The mayor of Republic produces a newsletter that rides along with the month’s water bill, putting information about the library garden in this newsletter would be a low cost, widespread way to promote this service.
Community events such as Pumpkin Daze, Have a Blast, and the Business Expo where the library can (or already does) set up a promotion table. These events would be excellent places to have relaxed conversations with community members regarding the availability and use of this service. These events also allow outreach to a large variety of patrons–both individuals who regularly utilize the library and those who never or rarely darken our door.
Every time I get on a museum’s website, I stare at it and think: “I want to learn all of the things”. I always forget how much information is on these sites, how much I can learn about the collection from my personal computer. Of course, I’m the traditional audience, I’d visit every museum , library, or archive everywhere I traveled if my family would let me. So, being allowed to view a collection–even if its only parts of it–online is very in-line with my information consuming habits. Still, I forget these places exist and fall down the YouTube rabbit hole instead.
So, how do information professionals fight this?
Being a hyperlinked organization is part of the solution.
Of course, tuning into social media is integral–if we’re going to get stuck in the YouTube rabbit hole anyways, then we at least have the option of falling down a museum or archive’s channel? For example, Lowell Observatory holds a regular livestream titled “Cosmic Coffee” that uses YouTube as its platform for the video and chatting with viewers. During one of these sessions, they interviewed the observatory’s archivist, thereby introducing their users to another part of their organization. The archivist’s willingness to participate and give a video tour in the archive was a great example of two specific tenants of hyperlinked libraries/organizations (Stephens):
“The most powerful information services to date are probably found in the palm of everyone’s hand.”
The required-reading article, “How A 145-Year-Old Art Museum Stays Relevant In The Smartphone Age” by Titlow, was also excellent in showing how to approach hyperlinking and classic “what if” fears Prof Stephens has discussed in his lectures.
“They were worried: If you show the art online, then why would people come to the museum?” says Sreenivasan. The new site lets people download high-resolution images and use them for free in non-commercial work. “Shouldn’t they be crappy pictures? I believe that the more you show, the more people will want to come.”
I actually laughed when I read this, because it’s something that, if I didn’t know better, I might have wondered myself. But I’ve been to museums. I’ve been to the Louvre and the British Museum, and some of the Smithsonian’s. And let me tell you one thing: If I had known more about the collections before I visited, I would have had an even more amazing experience. I don’t speak French, and I was not a lover of art at almost 18 years old when I visited the Louvre. I didn’t speak French (which was what most of the info plaques were written in)–and didn’t know how amazing and helpful an English audio tour would have been until it was too late. I was unbelievably jet lagged, and all I wanted to do in the most famous museum in the world was to sit down.
My best friend, however, was passionate about art and bouncing off the walls with excitement. The difference was she knew what she was looking at, and I did not. I still had some amazing experiences at the Louvre. The most memorable–which I unfortunately don’t have photo of–was that the edges of the marble staircases had been walked on so much they were curling downwards in places. And in fact, I believe it was somewhere between the Louvre and the end of the British Museum that the first seeds wanting to be an information professional were planted.
What I regret to this day is not knowing what was available to me before I visited. I would have been more excited during my visit if I had known the history and significance of the art and artifacts. If I could have interacted with displays and collections before visiting, it would have made me want to go (if I wasn’t already) or more excited about going. Seeing how the Met is interacting with its patrons and reaching out to touch people beyond their walls, is a beautiful example of reaching “all users, not just those who come through our doors” (Stephens). This is such an important tenant of the hyperlinked organization, because some people may not be able to enter the walls of the information organization physically or they may never have thought they belonged there if the organization had not made the effort to approach the person where he was.
In his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin discusses the need for a change in mindset. An abandonment of the belief that we must have permission to create and that leaders are someone more qualified than us. Godin’s (2008) definition of a tribe is “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea” (pg. 1). He believes there is a dire need for leaders because: Leadership expectations are shifting in organizations: “For the first time, ever, everyone in an organization—not just the boss—is expected to lead” (pg 12). How we conduct business is changing, making it “easier than ever to change things and that individuals have more leverage than ever before” (pg. 12). Novelty and change are being championed in the market, and there are people waiting to follow whoever stands up to the task.
Another reason Godin lists as a reason to become a leader is doing so is “engaging, thrilling, profitable, and fun” (pg. 12). While the rest of his thesis can be applied to our discussion of the hyperlinked library, I believe this reason is the best place to start because this tribe-forming concept of leadership and ultimately entrepreneurialism shares an important driving force that participatory culture and the hyperlink library also support: Fun.
Godin also discusses the importance of true fans and not caving to the status quo. Defying the status quo chinks well with the hyperlinked library model: “hyperlinking subverts existing organizational structures” (Stephens, 2020). The hyperlinked library’s mission involves breaking down the traditional definitions of “library” and creating something new and something where users—the tribe—are invited into the movement of the library but also the library’s future. With the emphasis on participatory culture, hyperlinked libraries can even create a breeding ground for leaders of new tribes. By subverting organizational structures—opposing the status quo, hyperlinked libraries create a space that can support the type of leadership Godin encourages. The hyperlinked library’s commitment to user experience is perfect for creating and maintaining true fans, because it gives permission to people permission to lead and be part of a community—a tribe, instead of simply being a building you go to when you need information. Godin says anyone can lead, and by focusing on user experience the hyperlinked library encourages and fosters that belief.
This book is short and fast-paced with provocative headers and ideas that align well with this class’s discussion regarding the hyperlinked library. However, I feel the need to put out a disclaimer that—despite its length—I struggled to get through it. While I agreed with a lot of Godin’s points, the tone of the book is something like a desperate (even accusatory) used-cars salesman. Godin’s audience is unclear—or rather, his audience is everyone. Which, considering the subtitle of the book, is unsurprising. Godin claims he wants to draw people into leadership, encouraging the time is now: he intends to convince people of his beliefs. But, as someone coming to the party brand new to his ideas, he seems to be preaching to the choir instead of drawing new people to his cause.
Godin, S. (2008). Tribes: We need you to lead us. Penguin Group.
Even before taking this class, the concept of the hyperlinked library gave me some anxiety. I’m a creature who upholds traditional values and is incredibly change adverse. I like structure, order, and rules. However, I also like being given the freedom to make judgement calls. I’m curious, enjoy exploring in the learning sense, and am often found asking (sometimes demanding) to know “why?”. I don’t shy away from hunting down answers or sitting with a piece of technology until I know how to make it work for me–and often the patron sitting next to me. I’ve asked myself several times, am I capable of buying into this model? It gives me a lot of anxiety. But it also has so much beautiful potential. I don’t mind the library being loud and full of life–I actually love the chaotic energy that comes from the concept of the “unquiet library“. But I’m also introverted and often find myself in desperate need to unplug from digital and social expectations. I find myself in the camp that while digital technology/the internet has opened so many doors it also creates many complications that simply wouldn’t exist if we didn’t rely so heavily on it (I write this as I’m knee deep in a troubleshooting drama of what feels like Shakespearean proportions for my very new laptop, so I may be a little biased right now).
Stephens (2006) mentions that “perpetual beta works well for the library’s Web presence” (pg. 8). I think this concept is what gives me some of the most anxiety, the inability to learn a skill and keep it: I fear Beta Burnout. These fears can probably be assuaged with better understanding–as is often the case with the unknown–and also a different perspective. Being in perpetual beta allows us to evaluate mistakes and implement new decisions faster instead of suffering with poor decisions for a long time. Stephen goes on to encourage that “ease of use, user involvement, and easily added/reconfigured pieces” be part of the beta process and evaluation of whether the system is working. This shows a common idea of the hyperlinked library model: user feedback is important for the hyperlinked library, and we can respond to feedback better while in beta mode as well.
Beyond simply changing my perspective and learning more, two things gave me comfort while going through the require reading. First, Buckley mentions that “we can expect, and should plan for, any real library service to be a blend: part Automated Library and part Electronic Library” (pg. 10). So often change is depicted as absolute and unavoidable (the e-reader is going to take away print books forever and there’s nothing you can do about it, haha!) instead of moldable and forgiving. I believe we see patrons want a little bit of everything–that combination between Automated and Electronic that Buckley predicted. I haven’t met a single person who argues that a card catalog is preferable to an online catalog, but I’m told almost weekly by patrons they’re “so glad we still have real books”–and sometimes those patrons are also avid digital users.
Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.
This harkens back to Leferink’s article “To keep people happy…keep some books“. This article is the second thing that made me more comfortable about the hyperlinked library. Because the hyperlinked library focuses so much on user experience, users are invited into discussions instead of left to wonder if things they love will be removed (and I have to routinely remind myself that while I am a library staff member, I’m also a patron, a user, and my voice as such matters as much as my voice as staff).
Leferink covers the importance of nature as well as giving credit to the fact that physical space is still important: “People long for community and places to go for solace, comfort, reflection, and joy”. For some people some people that’s a busy, social environment–whether physical or digital. For others it is not. At one time the library was only for the quiet learner. Now it is much more than that, and I think that the hyperlinked library is in the position to balance reflective solace and a strong sense of place with the chaotic messiness that is life and community.
I live in the Springfield, MO area. I graduated from Missouri State University in 2019 with my Bachelors in English-Creative Writing and a Minor in History. This is my first electives-only semester (I’m so excited!), and it will mark my first full year here at SJSU. I’ve worked for my hometown branch of the Springfield-Greene County Library District for four years as a library assistant.
I’m in the process of rediscovering my passions—I would say I’ve added new ones, but I usually realize these “new” passions are extensions of old loves, which is fine with me. Perhaps reawakening would be a better term. I’m a curious person: I’ve always loved reading and learning. In middle school, I wanted to be a geologist. Instead I became a writer. In entering the humanities, I guess I thought I’d left the science part of myself behind. But I’ve realized that the language artist and the rock-overturning scientist actually go well together. At the beginning of this year, my library branch adopted Nature Literacy as one of our themes and focuses for the future. I also selected Citizen Scientists as my information community for INFO 200 last Spring. That covers professional and educational spheres of life, but I might be adding some science to my personal life. I’m considering volunteering for a museum in my region that focuses on promoting biblical creationism. It was brought to my attention they need help cataloging their artifacts and other display materials, especially as they begin the process of upgrading their facilities.
Even with the unexpected, sciencey additions to my life, I’ve maintained my writing and reading habits. I’m working on Chapter 16 of my first middle grade novel! Goodreads keeps telling me I’m 7 books behind schedule, but I usually pad my goal so that I can read as many picture books as I want and not feel bad about adding them to my reading count–I haven’t had the opportunity to read many this year, so if you happen to be a picture book lover too, send me some suggestions! Also, the Duolingo Owl is stalking me because I haven’t practiced Latin enough this week, I accidentally reactivated the app during Stay at Home orders this spring and decided I may as well make the most of the reminders and start practicing again.
I’m excited to begin this course and see what I can learn. Dr. Stephens is (as a former SJSU student of his put it) “a breath of fresh air”, and I’m excited to once again be learning from him! I look forward to reading everyone’s posts and being involved in discussions with everyone.