Growing Library Garden Programs
Library gardens offer a great way for community members to come together to learn, grow, and contribute towards a healthy, balanced environment. And creating a vibrant community green space or gardening program doesn’t have to be complicated. Across the country—and beyond—libraries are growing gardening programs in their own unique ways. As you explore some of the gardens and programs here, you’ll notice that community partnerships represent a common thread running throughout all of the programs. Local businesses, master gardening groups, arts organizations, and community government can all play important roles in growing a successful library garden program.
Library Garden Inspiration
- The Read & Feed Community Garden (Michigan) grew from a partnership between Harrison District Library and H&R Block, which donates land and water for the garden. Community members can “check out” their own plot, and excess produce is donated to the Stone Soup Project.
- Kilcullen Library (County Kildare, Ireland) and local partners transformed a neglected space next to the library into a community garden, complete with a wild meadow, herbs, raised beds for vegetables, and a picnic area. This Kilcullen Diary article tells the story of the garden’s opening and picnic.
- Plain City Public Library (Ohio) updated their McCabe Memorial Reading Garden in spring, 2023 and hosted an event to celebrate the occasion.
- Growing Together Community Gardens and Fargo Public Library (North Dakota) teamed up to create a community garden at the Dr. James Carlson Library. Volunteers are invited to help plant, maintain, and harvest the plots.
- Somerville Public Library (Massachusetts) and Green City Growers are hosting a series of urban gardening workshops to help community members learn how to care for an urban garden all year long—from “waking up the garden” in spring, to planting and harvesting throughout summer and fall, and winterizing the garden at the end of season.
- Olympia Timberland Library (Washington) has a Community Garden that engages homeless patrons and non-profit neighbors.
Sharing Seeds, Sprouts, and More
- The Garden Cuttings Library at the Bibliothèque Saul-Bellow (Montreal) offers visitors a chance to exchange potted garden cuttings with other community members.
- Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture partners with Ashe County Public Library and Watauga County Public Library (North Carolina) to offer seed libraries where community members can choose from open-pollinated vegetable and flower seeds.
- Check out Sow Connection with Seed Libraries (WebJunction article) for more examples of how libraries are sharing seeds in creative ways.
Helping Kids Dig In!
- Reading Public Library’s Plant Lab (Massachusetts) invited kids to design the library’s patio garden by picking out seeds and visiting the library throughout the season to help care for them and check on their progress.
- River Valley District Library (Illinois) got whimsical with their Fairy Garden program. Kids were invited to plant their own mini gardens and decorate them with fairy décor.
- Kids from the Explore Lampasas Program at Lampasas Public Library (Texas) had the chance to visit their local community garden, learn about botany, plant seeds, and care for plants using the square foot gardening method.
- Waterford Township Public Library (Michigan) has transformed landscaping beds at the library into a Children's Sensory Garden and an active Library Garden Club maintains the space and provides programs.
- Middle Country Public Library's Nature Explorium (New York) is an outdoor learning space for children and families. Learn all about this innovative garden in a WebJunction webinar, Explore and Discover: Nature-Based Spaces and Activities at your Library and read more in the Growing Nature Literacy in Libraries Resource Book (PDF).
- Hartland Public Library (Vermont) participated in the #PlantWildflowers Nationwide Library Initiative, which invites community members to help do their part to support local pollinators by planting native wildflowers. The outreach included a screening of the film My Garden of a Thousand Bees, a BioBlitz biodiversity identification event, and seed packet giveaway.
- In 2020, Westbank Library (Texas) transitioned their community garden into a native pollinator garden, featuring native plants well-suited to the hot, dry climate. The new garden also features a beehive and offers community members a chance to learn about beekeeping and how to help honeybees.
Get Growing: Resources, Tips, and Inspiration for Your Library Garden
Community partnerships are crucial to a thriving library garden program. One impactful partnership example is the Fruitful Libraries Resolution in DeKalb County, Georgia. Local groups partnered with the county government to dedicate existing landscaping funds to transform the greenspaces of all 23 county libraries into regenerative landscapes. These greenspaces will include edible, native, and pollinator-friendly plants, with the goal of building more resilient ecosystems. Read on for more partnership ideas, plus resources and tips that can help inform your library’s approach to gardening with your community.
- Community gardens are cropping up at public libraries everywhere: This article by Noah Lenstra on Shareable offers an overview of library gardening programs, plus inspiration from libraries and links to further reading.
- Seeding Community and Hope: This School Library Journal article gives a brief overview of library gardening and some tips for getting started.
- The Buzz on Library Gardens: Listen to this Call Number with the American Libraries Podcast episode to hear how libraries are getting creative with their gardening programs.
- Food for Thought: building a better community through food: This Washington State Library webinar recording covers how libraries are becoming community food hubs through library gardens, lending libraries, and partnerships with community gardens and farmers.
- Where Monarchs Reign: Read about how libraries are dedicating part of their outdoor spaces to pollinators.
- Let's Move in Libraries: A website collecting resources related to gardening in library programs, as part of movement-based programs.
- Let’s Move! (archived site): An initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama to encourage physical activity and access to healthy, affordable food for kids and families. Check out the Gardening Guide section for resources for home, school, and community gardens.
- Integrating Outdoor Spaces Into Library Design: a whitepaper from Bond Architects on considerations to look into before starting a library garden, different types of gardens for your library to explore, and step-by-step processes for establishing a successful library garden.
- The Edible Schoolyard Project: This project promotes student learning about nourishment, stewardship, and community and includes resources useful to library garden projects.
- Slow Food USA's National School Garden curriculum offers resources to support activities in school gardens.
- SC Plants the Seed: An initiative that improves South Carolina residents’ access to fresh produce at their local libraries through a collaboration between stage agencies, the SNAP-Ed program, and farmers.
For further reading and resources, check out these WebJunction articles and webinars:
- Sow Connection with Seed Libraries: Seed libraries offer another great way to connect with community members. This article offers tips for getting started, and examples from libraries all over.
- Hunger-Free Libraries: Food Pantries and Fridges: Read about creative ways libraries are helping to address food insecurity in their communities.
- Food Access and Seed Libraries in Rural Public Libraries: Presenters from small and rural locations in South Carolina share their experiences with seed libraries and community refrigerators.
- Strengthening Communities: Food Access at Your Library: This webinar shares examples of library food access initiatives including seed libraries, community gardens and farmers markets.