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Category: Assignments

Director’s Brief: Library Gardens

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.

Director’s Brief PDF

Reference for Cicero Quote:

Young, Damon (2012, December 20) “The garden in the library: Cicero and the stuff of life”. Australian Broadcasting Corporation News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-21/young-the-garden/4437806

Participatory Service Plan: Library Garden

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.
Photo by Maggie My Photo Album from Pexels

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.

  1. Promote a love of learning and nature through outdoor play
  2. Create authentic, incidental interactions with nature and other people
  3. Further nature literacy programming goals for the Republic Branch
  4. 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.


Evidence & Resources

Banks, C.S. & Mediavilla, C. (2019). Libraries and Gardens: Growing together. ALA Editions. 

The benefits of nature play for children. (2020). First Five Years

Cohen, D. (n.d.) Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature. Child Mind Institute. 

Finch, K. & Loza, A.M. (2015). Nature Play: Nurturing Children and Strengthening Conservation through Connections to the Land (Nature Play: Color PDF version

Honoring the Child’s Voice in Design (2013). Wonder: Newsletter of the Nature Action Collaborative for Children, March/April. 

Huss, J. & Spencer, R.M. (2016) Wandering the Wandering the Web–Libraries Gardening with Kids? A Growing Trend. Against the Grain: Vol 28: Issue 5, Article 43. 

LaStella, T. (2020). Explore and Discover: Nature-Based Spaces and Activities at your Library. WebJunction. Webinar. & Accompanying Learner Guide

Let’s Move in Libraries. (n.d.) Gardening 

Libraries as Nature Connectors (n.d.) Cities Connecting Children to Nature

Lynch, G. H. (2014) Dig It! Library Gardens Sprout Up Coast-to-Coast. School Library Journal

Monroe, M. C. & Krasny, M. E., Ed. (2016). Across the Spectrum: Resources for Environmental Educators. North American Association for Environmental Education, 3rd Edition. 

Nature Explorium (n.d.) Press. (Resource/Article List)

Nature Explorium (n.d.) Growing Nature Literacy in Libraries: Resource Book 

Peterson, J. (2016) Growing Library Garden Programs WebJunction. Updated 2019.


Mission, Guidelines, & Policies

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.


Funding Considerations for the Garden

  • Community Foundation of the Ozarks / Republic Community Foundation: approach to learn of any endowment funds with missions similar to ours that may be allocated to assist with this project. Also ask them for assistance finding other nonprofits with similar missions that would be able to help support this project
  • 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.

Prototyping/ Preliminary

  1. Bird watching/feeding stations outside of window.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Staffing Considerations

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. 


Training

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.


References:

Stephens, M. (2020). The Hyperlinked Library: Exploring the model. https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=a0569381-4d66-4e0a-a7fa-aab3010a8f3e

LaStella, T. (2020). Explore and Discover: Nature-Based Spaces and Activities at your Library. WebJunction. Webinar. 

Context Book Review

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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.

References

Godin, S. (2008). Tribes: We need you to lead us. Penguin Group.

Stephens, M. (2020). The Hyperlinked Library: Exploring the model. https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=a0569381-4d66-4e0a-a7fa-aab3010a8f3e

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