By Nicole Fitzgerald
Going into my third year of working for Mesa County Libraries, I find myself just as excited and amazed at the resources we provide to our community as I did on day one. I want to shout from the rooftops, “Do you know we have a digital conversion station? GoPros to check out? State parks, Colorado National Monument, museum, Art Center, and Botanical Garden passes? A language learning program? GED classes? Video streaming and art classes? The list goes on and it’s ALL FREE!?!”
Free programming and experiential learning are already part of what the library offers its patrons. All I’ve done is move these opportunities to the outdoors and it’s really beautiful and therapeutic and delicious to experience. The library is where I found my home in Grand Junction. A cross-section of culture, ideas, interests. There is something for everyone at the library – and all are welcome.
Libraries provide a safe space for people to explore and learn. It’s a place where all in our community can find information and connect with resources. Libraries are filling gaps in society that aren’t provided elsewhere – it is an exciting place to be.
One day, wandering around outside at the library, I discovered that we owned an empty lot on an approximately ¾-acre piece of land with nary a weed upon it. The seed was planted. In my head, I saw flowers and butterflies and food, lots of food, growing. I saw parents sitting under trees with kids reading books, other kids marveling at insects on scented flowers, older adults talking to youth about preparing squash, the vision went on and on. This could be a landscape that connected community members with no barrier of age, race, religion, income, or gender identity. Community members would come and harvest food and share knowledge. People could come to free programs about raised beds, building soil, pruning, uncommon fruit and more. They could come and paint and create, they could just come and sit and enjoy.
So, that is what we’ve done. With the help of community organizations, grants, and many amazing volunteers, we have grown a garden. It is community driven, it is filled with successes and failures and a lot of individual sweat, and it is amazing. There are now flowers and food and greenery and weeds and insects and people on that vacant lot. There is a fence and a shed and a beautiful arbor. I can still hear Chipeta Elementary 5th graders running around out there harvesting the greens they planted yelling, “I LOVE KALE!” Those words fill me up at difficult moments.
We have a ‘garden dog’, a family of stone ducks, a 200-foot winding raised bed bookworm and happy sunflowers ready to greet you. We are offering a new way to Learn, Discover, Create and Connect out in the garden. We offer free programs and welcome school groups to plant and do art in the garden, we welcome community members to come in and pick and eat food and share stories with their neighbors.
Why a garden?
Why not. To get outside, move, touch, taste, smell, revel in the miracle of a seed, makes me know this is the right thing for the library to do. Providing a food landscape and one to truly learn from and interact with can connect us to the land and to each other. We can remember our grandparents’ stories by growing tomatoes, and find a connection to the earth by watching a compost pile turn back to soil. My only question, and I ask it with pure excitement, is, “What next”?
Be on the lookout for answers to that question. Go to our website and find the Discovery Garden under, ‘Books + More’ or come and join us, get your hands dirty, and help to provide food for the community.
- September 28: Pollinator Workshop
- October 20: Harvest Fest for the whole family
Nicole is the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at Mesa County Libraries. She also gets to play in the soil and watch things grow out in the library’s Discovery Garden that she began working on 2 years ago. Thanks to a wonderful community and library, she has a thriving volunteer program, a growing list of resources to share with patrons, and a garden that is truly living up to the title, ‘Discovery’. Visit mesacountylibraries.org and find out about all the amazing resources available or to become a volunteer!