« Back to Sustainability

Growing Connections

St. Louis County Library, MO

Innovation Summary

In May 2012, St. Louis County Library formed a partnership with Gateway Greening to establish a community garden at one of our branch locations. We chose the Prairie Commons Branch as the ideal location for this project since it has a large, sunny, open space in a very visible location.

Innovation Leader: Barbara Brain, Assistant Manager, Adult and Support Services, bbrain@slcl.org

Problem Statement

Gateway Greening is a local non-profit whose mission of promoting urban neighborhood vitality and stability, healthy living and quality of life through community food projects, education and wellness programs, and civic greening for all ages fits easily with St. Louis County Library’s desire to contribute to the health and vitality of the communities we serve while fostering a greater community spirit. The garden at our Prairie Commons Branch is their first collaboration with a public library. In the library’s effort to create comfortable spaces for the community to gather, we have oftentimes ignored the green space around our branches and focused only on the space inside. One of the library’s new directives is to support the establishment of community gardens at those library branches whose communities and location will support such an endeavor. Working with Gateway Greening provides us with the expertise and guidance we need to make such an initiative a success. The library views the establishment of a community garden as another way of reaching out to and connecting with the local community, as an opportunity to form partnerships with other organizations engaged in building a better St. Louis region, and also as a way to educate people regarding the sustainable use of the land.

Innovation

St. Louis County Library and Gateway Greening set an initial public meeting date of August 1 at the branch to gauge community interest. On August 1, we knew we had strong community interest and support when 35 enthusiastic people attended the meeting where we discussed the process of establishing a community garden, outlined the support the library and Gateway Greening would bring to the project and gathered contact information. A second planning meeting was scheduled for the following month at which four individuals volunteered to form the garden planning team. These planners communicate with the other gardeners and collaboratively make decisions about the type of garden they want, the membership fees, and rules governing ongoing maintenance and conflict resolution. The final garden plan of a 20-bed community garden was a collaborative effort between St. Louis County Library, Gateway Greening and the community gardeners themselves. The plan was in place by early 2013 and also included a butterfly garden adjacent to the vegetable plots. St. Louis Audubon Society partnered with us to make the native plant selections. The library arranged for a soil test, installed a water line and a paved path in order to increase accessibility. On Saturday March 23, community gardeners, Gateway Greening and St. Louis County Library staff and corporate volunteers assembled and set the raised beds, filled them with top soil and compost and prepared and planted the butterfly garden within a five hour period. Since snow was expected the following day, no vegetables were planted that day.

Progress

Working with Gateway Greening, St. Louis County Library will increase exposure gardening, nutrition and health related programming within the community. Having the garden on-site gives us a tangible teaching tool which will assist us in promoting healthy living and community cohesiveness. We hope to install other community gardens and native plantings at other branches throughout the system, starting in spring 2014 with our Cliff Cave Branch. We also plan to form other partnerships and seek grant funding and/or corporate sponsorship to support our efforts. Gateway Greening and St. Louis County Library now share a Community Outreach Specialist who will become our main point of contact with the community gardeners, offer support and advice to them and help us to develop workshops and other programming to highlight and further support this project.