Episode Eight: Library Gardens

Image result for salt lake city public library garden
Salt Lake City Public Library garden

Libraries and gardens. At first, they may not seem to have much in common; but we grow ideas and knowledge already – and many of us also grow plants, flowers, trees and vegetables!

Thank you to all the libraries who responded to our call for information and photos – everything we discuss today came from these libraries, eager to share their information!

Our Spotlight Library this week has one of the most famous library gardens: the Salt Lake City Public Library. Check out the links we provide, and look around at all the great photos of this beautiful building, with their rooftop garden and their community garden!

You can listen to our podcast this week here, or subscribe to us at iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

Library Gardens

These reports were all shared by library people who sent us their information. If your library has a garden, or if you know of another one – please  share it with us, and we will post it here!

Some of this information was taken from the chapter “Public Library Gardens: Playing a Role in Ecologically Sustainable Communities” by Mary Wilkins Jordan, in the book “Public Libraries and Resilient Cities” edited by Michael Dudley. You might check out this book from ALA if you are interested in the topic!

This is a shot of our library garden at CMLE Headquarters! We have pots of plants all over the office, and our Office Mascot Orville helps us in keeping the plants growing.


Waite Park, Great River library system

This library has a small garden outside the library, complete with concrete benches and poetry to help everyone enjoy it!

Paynesville Public Library, Great River Library System

I took this photo on a recent visit; and it is too early to be blooming yet; but this looks lovely when it is! Each sign points to a fictional destination from books they have read. In a small space, it’s great to see such a nice garden in a library location.

And here it is blooming – you can see the Peter Rabbit themed artwork more clearly!





Last summer they had 25 eastern black swallowtail caterpillars in the garden! Let’s see how many are there this summer.

Annandale Public Library, Great River Library System

This is a quick photo of the garden in the front of the library. There are so many nice things in this library, and you can see the support from this community on the wall as you walk inside!

Bonnie McKewon with the State Library of Iowa: Readers’ Garden: Akron Public Library

Check out all their photos!

“The Akron Library with its new garden area is an investment in our future and the future of our citizens.  And remember, all successful investments require attention, time and resources to remain valuable and to grow.  Use your library, enjoy it, and support it — it serves our community well.
And with the support and generous donations from patrons and businesses in our community, we were able to design, build and plant our garden in ONE summer!  We installed irrigation, electricity, benches, a gaming table and a water fountain!  We have many plans for our “outside library room””



Jill McConnell, Executive Director Cooper-Siegel Community Library Pittsburgh, PA  [2 photos] Facebook  Twitter

Our garden surrounds an open grassy area on the side of our library building. The garden was designed and is maintained by master gardeners from a local gardening club. It won Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s Community Greening Award 2012.

Our branch library has an award winning community garden with 30 plots that always has a waiting list. The garden was revived and redesigned with a two-year grant from Grow Pittsburgh. This is the first year that a group of local community members will take over the care and coordination of the garden.


Tana Elias, Digital Services & Marketing Manager, Madison Public Library

Thanks to MG&E, our library has a new green roof that helps cool down the building and prevent polluted water surges from flowing off the roof and disbursing into surrounding lakes.

We also have seed libraries in two of our nine locations.


Barbara Spruill Gwinnett County Public Library in Georgia

Our gardens are indoor Tower Gardens that grow a variety of salad greens.  A multitude of STEM, nutrition, and community engagement programs have been created with the Tower Gardens as the focus. We purchased fifteen of them (one for each branch) through an IMLS grant.  We are harvesting several cycles of fresh produce already and some branches are donating the fresh greens to a local senior center where lunch is served, others have located local food pantries that accept fresh foods, and others are using the fresh salad makings for programs like “Salad in a Jar.”

Our communities and schools are very engaged with the Tower Gardens and many times we will hear customers say they didn’t know libraries do this!  Our youngest of customers get to plant a seedling and watch it grow into a stand of romaine, basil, bok choy, watercress and more.


Krista Bowers Sharpe, Michael Lorenzen Western Illinois University 

Picky plants reside in the library

A love of plants and having the knowledge to take care of them has given Malpass Library nursery worker Rebecca Fross the ability to tend to many plant species.

Fross, who earned her Board of Trustees degree at Western Illinois University in 2000, was a late bloomer before she discovered her love of horticulture.

“It took me awhile to get going, but the Board of Trustees program was excellent for me,” Fross said. “I then started an ornamental grass nursery. I also taught plant (identification) at John Wood Community College, and I have written some articles for the Macomb Journal. It was several years ago, but that’s kind of my background. Basically, I did my ornamental grass nursery out of industry for probably 11 to 12 years before I came here.””


Elizabeth M. Tobey National Sporting Library

I used to work for the National Sporting Library in Middleburg, Virginia, which is a specialized library on equestrian and field sports. In 2006 the Library installed a lovely boxwood square garden next to the main library building. A couple years ago, a bronze sculpture of the racehorse, 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero (who was owned by Paul Mellon) was installed in the center of the garden.

Addison Public Library (Illinois)

“Has a rooftop garden; the green roof system reduces heating and cooling costs, provides acoustic insulation and improves air quality, reducing the heat-island effect.”

Grand Rapids Public Library

The rain garden is designed to clean stormwater run off before it hits our sewer system, which empties directly into the Grand River. It’s a natural filtration system, so that only clean water flows into our gorgeous river! We put ours in a few years ago with the help of Calvin College biology students and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Mid-Columbia Library Kennewick, WA

The Demonstration Garden is free and open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. Its paved pathways are disabled-accessible. We invite you to explore the more than 25 distinctive and ever-changing theme gardens. The gardens currently feature over 50 trees, 800 roses, 100 shrubs and even a children’s garden at the serene two acre site. Have a peaceful stroll, take some pictures, bring a lunch, relax in the shade…visit with the Master Gardeners!

The Goals of the Demonstration Garden

  • Demonstrate various types of locally suitable trees, shrubs, and other plants and their uses in home landscapes and gardens.
  • Raise public awareness of sound gardening practices through teaching, testing and demonstration.
  • Provide a place of beauty and tranquility for garden visitors of all ages.


Community Library, Salem, WI

The Community Library in Salem started its gardens in 1997. Staff and volunteers planted thousands of bulbs that were donated by the Kenosha County Extension. By 1999, the gardens were in full bloom and staffed by library employee garden enthusiasts.

Our goal is to incorporate native landscaping into its grounds to:

  • Beautify the landscape
  • Improve wildlife habitat
  • Limit the use of pesticides and other chemical applications
  • Create a more diverse landscape
  • Reduce maintenance
  • Provide gardening information based on first-hand experience

The following gardens are situated on five acres in a rural setting.

The garden around the fountain and nearby seating areas provides a variety of interest from early spring through late autumn. Plants are chosen for their color, foliage, pest resistance, drought tolerance, need for full sun, and wildlife-attracting attributes. A mix of natives, non-natives, and some colorful annuals which reseed themselves are included in this garden. Care involves deadheading, weed control, mulch application, and occasional pest watch. This area also includes several rose bushes.





Books We are Reading:

You know that library people like to read, and we also like to share our book! Do you have any book recommendations? Send them in! We like all kinds of reading, and would love to hear some of your favorites!


What if I Say The Wrong Thing?: 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People, by Verna A. Myers “In this compelling new tip book you’ll find innovative and surprising ways to keep your personal diversity journey moving and the diversity commitment of your organization. Written to make this information bite-size and accessible, you’ll find quick answers to typical What should I do? questions, like: What if I say the wrong thing, what should I do? What if I am work and someone makes a sexist joke, what should I say?

Purchase copies for everyone at your organization to make sure everyone knows the culturally effective way to approach diversity situations. With this book they can be prepared and practiced at moving diversity forward!”
CMLE is reading this for our Goodreads online book group this month! If you want to join either our group reading fun books with a librarian theme, or our professional skills book group (or signu p for our weekly newsletter our our social media) you can do that here!

The Tiger Rising, by Kate DiCamillo “Walking through the misty Florida woods one morning, twelve-year-old Rob Horton is stunned to encounter a tiger—a real-life, very large tiger—pacing back and forth in a cage. What’s more, on the same extraordinary day, he meets Sistine Bailey, a girl who shows her feelings as readily as Rob hides his. As they learn to trust each other, and ultimately, to be friends, Rob and Sistine prove that some things—like memories, and heartache, and tigers—can’t be locked up forever. Featuring a new cover illustration by Stephen Walton.”



(I’m on the second book of this trilogy, and loved the first book more; so am including both here)

Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan “In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Now, assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person’s consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or “sleeve”) making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.

Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, re-sleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats “existence” as something that can be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning. . . .”

Broken Angels, by Richard K. Morgan “Cynical, quick-on-the-trigger Takeshi Kovacs, the ex-U.N. envoy turned private eye, has changed careers, and bodies, once more . . . trading sleuthing for soldiering as a warrior-for-hire, and helping a far-flung planet’s government put down a bloody revolution.

But when it comes to taking sides, the only one Kovacs is ever really on is his own. So when a rogue pilot and a sleazy corporate fat cat offer him a lucrative role in a treacherous treasure hunt, he’s only too happy to go AWOL with a band of resurrected soldiers of fortune. All that stands between them and the ancient alien spacecraft they mean to salvage are a massacred city bathed in deadly radiation, unleashed nanotechnolgy with a million ways to kill, and whatever surprises the highly advanced Martian race may have in store. But armed with his genetically engineered instincts, and his trusty twin Kalashnikovs, Takeshi is ready to take on anything—and let the devil take whoever’s left behind.


Spotlight Library: Salt Lake City Public Library

Salt Lake City Public Library http://www.slcpl.org/


“Imagine walking into a building and seeing a florist, a hair salon, and an art gallery. Would you guess you’re in a library?

Probably not, but at the Salt Lake City Public Library, that’s exactly what you’ll encounter. “Having any of these within a flagship library is a unique arrangement,” says Andrew Shaw, the library’s communications manager. In addition, a café, a coffee shop, a public radio station, a writing center, and a library store occupy the first floor, steps from the main library entrance.

While the library is the main focus, this mixed-use space “gives each visitor a sense of destination, of experience,” says Shaw.

What first attracted Lyndon Tan, owner of The English Garden flower shop, to the library? “The idea of community and retail coming together,” he says. His business has been at the library since its inception, and in that time, Tan has watched as “this new library really became the living room of the community.”

Through the library, the shop also offers classes on flower arrangements and gardening. Then, too, the location has given the business lots of exposure. “We get a lot of walk-in traffic,” he says.



The City Library’s Mission Statement  http://www.slcpl.org/about/mission/

The City Library is a dynamic civic resource that promotes free and open access to information, materials and services to all members of the community to advance knowledge, foster creativity, encourage the exchange of ideas, build community and enhance the quality of life.

The City Library’s Strategic Plan

The City Library has chosen six community outcomes to provide a focus for developing services, collections and programs. Along with community partners, staff has developed a rich array of initiatives and experiences to help achieve these goals.

  • Enjoying Life
  • People make time for entertainment to lighten up, enjoy life, and unlock creativity.
  • Exploring New Ideas
  • The community openly explores ideas and engages in conversation, discussion and dialogue, especially about ideas they may never have encountered before.
  • Ensuring Early Literacy
  • Every child has an equal chance to succeed. The youngest children have expansive early literacy and early learning opportunities.
  • Accessing Technology
  • Everyone in the community has access to technology and the skills to use them.
  • Creating Local Solutions and Bridging Divides
  • The community works together to address challenges and generate innovative solutions to create and sustain the best place to live, and then makes it happen. Our focus will be on sustainability and City, State, and National urban initiatives. The community finds ways to bridge the east/west racial, cultural and socio-economic divide to strengthen our city.


From SLC website:

Salt Lake City’s Main Library, designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie (see related titles in our catalog) in conjunction with VCBO Architecture, opened in February 2003 and remains one of the most architecturally unique structures in Utah. This striking 240,000 square-foot structure houses more than 500,000 books and other materials, yet serves as more than just a repository of books and computers. It reflects and engages the city’s imagination and aspirations. The six-story curving, walkable wall embraces the public plaza, with shops and services at ground level, reading galleries above, and a 300-seat auditorium. A multi-level reading area along the glass lens at the southern facade of the building looks out onto the plaza with stunning views of the city and Wasatch Mountains beyond. A roof-top garden, accessible by walking the crescent wall or the elevators, offers a 360 degree view of the Salt Lake Valley. Spiraling fireplaces on four floors resemble a column of flame from the vantage of 200 East and 400 South. The Urban Room between the library and the crescent wall is a space for all seasons, generously endowed with daylight and open to magnificent views.


Natural light is introduced into all of the spaces where people sit and work. Infused with light from all sides, the library has paid careful attention to ensure that library materials and technology are not affected by direct sunlight. The clear glass on the lens of the triangle has the highest UV rating available for energy efficiency. Indirect lighting fixtures reflect off the painted, arched ceilings to cast even light, reducing glare on computer screens, desk surfaces, and book pages.

As you move up in the building from floor to floor, you may notice that it gets quieter. This effect is by design, with the more active and noisier areas of the library on the lower levels giving way to the reference and study-oriented areas on the upper levels.


A visit to the library garden






We support libraries!