We’ve been hearing about and experiencing a lot of trauma in our libraries and in our world. A new report came out from the Urban Libraries Unite that I am ruminating on and plan to write about next month. Library work, the work of serving the community, can be really tough. Sometimes you just need to let loose and plan something that checks off all the boxes of education, literacy, and community outreach goals but is also really fun for you and your staff and good for the soul. May I recommend chickens and bluegrass and caterpillars?
Our library has been participating in California’s Lunch at the Library program for the last four years. Two of our three branches serve as daily meal sites. Once a week at both sites we provide special programming for participants while they eat. I usually try to make the programming center around healthy eating or gardening. This year, we opted to alternate the programming between educational topics and entertainment. Educationally, we had our local community college come out with their seed garden, and families got some cool plants. We had community educators from the neighborhood hospital talk about healthy eating and habits. We planted pollinator and vegetable gardens in raised beds at each of our sites. On the entertainment front, we had some crafting programs, and also some concerts. They were all hits!
One program in the series stands out as my favorite of the summer. It was a practically perfect program. I had been trying for months to book a local farmer for our mealtime events. Let me tell you, it is nearly impossible to get a farmer to come out to two consecutive days of programming for a small sum of money in the middle of their busy season. I was beginning to despair. Then I remembered that our director Shannon raises chickens! Eureka! With her permission, I headed to the local Tractor Supply store on “chick day” and picked out four four-day-old baby chicks (Tractor Supply has a four-chick minimum purchase). I got a little brooding tub, some wood flakes, Hen-Hydrate, food, and other baby chick accouterments. THEN I GOT TO TAKE THEM HOME FOR ALMOST A WEEK BEFORE THE PROGRAM! I had a ridiculous amount of fun and became fairly obsessive about them. I brought them back and forth to work a few times as well, and our staff had a blast coming up with names and spending a little bit of time with the babies in my office. Patrons took note as well. The chicks never failed to make everyone who saw them light up!
I decided that the chicks deserved a blow-out program, so we incorporated some entertainment into their scheduled events. I was able to book the living legend Fred Sokolow to play banjo and autoharp and sing for each program. It was a perfect combination! Nothing is homier than bluegrass music and chickens!
And as if by magic, monarch butterfly caterpillars showed up on the milkweed that I had planted in the pollinator garden just in time. On the day of the program at our Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy branch, we had more than a dozen on the plants! Kids were fascinated!
Our four little chicks have gone to live with Shannon’s flock and will have a lovely, free-range life. We’ve ordered an egg incubator and we’re going to hatch some chicks at the children’s desk this fall. The caterpillars moved on the day after the program. I continue to search for chrysalis and have hope that soon we’ll have some new monarchs fluttering around the patio before they head out again. We’re going to continue our children’s concert series this fall; we call it Green Eggs and Jam. Library staff will continue the hard and important work of service to our community. And every once in a while, we’ll plan a program that hits the sweet spot of being good for our patron and also healing for ourselves. That’s perfection to me.