Blogger Amy Koester

Planning Youth Library Services Like a Garden

I’ve found myself browsing through gardening guides and harvest cookbooks lately–that reading is inspired by my intention to spend more time outside and gardening this year. Springtime is full of such possibility as daffodils, crocuses, and other early flowers start to bloom, signaling the richness of what’s ahead. I’m also finding it invigorating to channel my gardening interest into thinking about my library work and to look at that work with fresh eyes–perhaps it’s the overlap of a “spring cleaning” mindset. I love a good reflection and goal-setting tool, so I am offering a reflective exercise that may be a useful way to take stock of what’s on your plate now, and what seeds it makes sense to start sowing to reap the benefits later.

What are your perennials?

What are the services, activities, projects, initiatives, etc., that you return to year after year? That is to say, they have a dedicated space in your work, most likely because they have consistent positive effects for your community. Summer reading clubs are a perfect example of a perennial in a youth service garden–but so too are storytimes, STEAM event series, and book discussions. Take note of the things that you do in your work year after year because the returns are all but guaranteed.

What are your annuals?

Annual plants must be replanted each year to thrive. The beauty of annuals in a garden is that each year they give the gardener an opportunity to decide if they want to continue with the same plants, change them out, or just tweak things a bit. Perhaps that means rotating your crops, as it were–that successful book-themed party that brought in so many people last September might actually make more sense at another time of year, for example. Sometimes with annuals, it makes sense to change your varietals from year to year once you see how a particular plant does in your garden. In the youth library context, that could mean a great event concept that just hasn’t settled into optimal execution yet. Think of a registered craft program–if it’s had minimal attendance because school-age kids are using your library more informally (not wanting to be tied to a particular event window), perhaps it makes sense to consider adapting craft activities to be more drop-in, or more passive so they’re available over longer stretches. What are your annuals, and how might it make sense to adjust them to meet your goals?

What are your want-to-tries?

So many gardeners delight in trying a new plant just because–perhaps they got a cutting from a friend, they tried a varietal from the farmer’s market and want to try growing it themselves, or they’ve just seen a lovely plant in a seed catalogue. Whatever the impetus, gardeners often add a few want-to-tries to their plots, even if they’re not sure how successful they’ll be–the experimentation is its own reward. That inclination to want-to-try is something that serves youth library workers well, too. What are one or two things you want to try just to see how they do? Perhaps it’s that program you saw discussed at a conference or on a webinar, or perhaps it’s an idea you’ve had lingering in a “maybe one day” folder on your desktop. Give it a shot!

How big is your garden?

One thing I love about a garden metaphor for thinking about youth library services is the reality of space. Any seed package or garden guide will tell you how densely to sow a particular seed, and how much space a particular plant will need to grow. Sometimes in library services, we get so excited about all of the possibilities we could pursue that we end up crowding our services–our plants don’t have the space they need to properly grow, and instead compete for limited sun, water, and soil. As you take stock of all the services and programs ahead of you at your library, make sure to realistically consider what’s possible to be in your garden during any one season.

Okay, I am sure I’ve belabored this garden metaphor enough. I hope whatever framework you’re using to reflect on your work this spring, it’s one that serves you well! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *