By Joshua Alperin, Melrose Branch Library Manager
This spring, the Oakland Public Library (OPL) launched the Culturally Relevant Gardening* project. This California State Library grant-funded initiative added more diverse offerings to OPL seed libraries, enhanced library gardens, generated new information resources, and allowed OPL to carry out 22 in-person gardening workshops.
The project also inspired the Melrose Library to seek out a unique partnership with one of our neighbors. From June 1- July 10, Melrose Library hosted a Spanish-language gardening internship for teens in our beautiful backyard patio. The program was entitled “Planting Wellness; Gardening for Mental Health Apprenticeship,” and was led by Vivian Santana Pacheco, a Health Educator with La Clínica's department of Cultura y Bienestar. Supplies and materials for the project were purchase with a portion of our 2022-23 Branch Equity grant from the Friends of the OPL.
The cohort of nine teens were from different local schools including Alternatives in Action, Fremont, and United for Success Academy. The group met twice weekly from 2:30pm to 5pm to learn beginner gardening, and soil testing. Other team-building and wellness activities included yoga, simple cooking and tea-making, and discussions. As part of the gardening activities, the teens put together two long beds for planting – amending and preparing the soil carefully. They planted the beds using a common companion planting practice that includes the Three Sisters of corn, beans, and squash. The beans wind their way up the corn stalks and squash covers and shades the ground. The group also planted tomatoes, sunflowers, zinnias, amaranth and other plants.
Most of the group was new to the Melrose Library and many of the youth took part in other events and activities at the library, adding to our summer library community. This project was a great success and we hope to use it as a model for similar programs in the future.
*This project was supported in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian. It also would not have been possible without the fiscal sponsorship of the Friends of the Oakland Public Library.
Are you interested in learning more about OPL’s seed libraries and other gardening resources? Start by visiting OaklandLibrary.org/Seeds.