The library’s reach isn’t limited to just its walls. The library’s reach should extend to the whole community. In a way, the whole community is part of the library: the schools, the civic groups, the offices of local politicians, the senior centers, the playgrounds, and much more.
At Queens Library (South Hollis Branch), I was glad to connect two such groups recently, our Basic English Class and our local Gardening Club. To explain, across the street from our library, an abandoned building was recently converted to a shelter for homeless veterans — it is now called The Hollis Garden Apartments. At that point, I was just a spectator, wondering what would happen. All 120 units got filled in no time. Of course, I was really excited to have more patrons to serve. The more people we can help, the better for the community.
One thing that I learned a long time ago is to take a step back and observe first. To help people, first I need to learn about them. From day one, I made sure that all the veterans and all the workers involved with the shelter felt welcome at the library. I love talking to people and hearing their stories. Every person who comes to the library is like a walking book, just waiting to be opened up!
Since the Hollis Gardens Apartments do not have a meeting space, often their regular events like tenants meetings and special programs like acupuncture are held in the library’s meeting room. Our door count went up as well as program attendance, circulation numbers, and library card registrations. I also attended the special events at the apartments, such as the grand opening ceremony. It was really special to hear workers from Hollis Gardens thank the library for its support.
Another special thing that Hollis Gardens did was to create a Gardening Club! They converted an empty plot of land into a real garden. They built raised beds with wooden planks and got fresh new soil to create an edible garden in conjunction with trained gardeners. I was there when they first met and I threw some pennies in the soil for good luck. The Gardening Club met twice a week, and I would visit to help out. Even though it was warm in the summer time, it was fun to have an excuse to go outside and work the soil, plant little seedlings, and to water the plants. The veterans were also very friendly and I had a good time working with them.
Our library also has regular English classes ran by a volunteer instructor. I talked to the instructor, and she was showing me pictures of her garden at home. I told her about the community garden and she wasn’t even aware of it. So we decided to go together and we brought along the English Class. The class was excited to be outside. They walked around and observed all the plants. The gardeners even asked the English Class to make labels for the garden. The class learned about the different plant names in English, and they told us the plant names in their native language. It was a special event and I was happy I could make it happen. Everyone went home with fresh basil!
The library is already a force that connects people with books and movies. The library also connects people with other people, where they make friendships through different clubs and events. The library can bring different organizations and community groups together!