After a spirited discussion on Thursday night, the board of the Morton Grove Public Library voted 6 to 1 to approve the library's urban garden project. Trustee Catherine Peters was the one board member to oppose it, calling it a "tremendously ill-conceived plan."
Library staff organized the urban garden as a volunteer project which was approved by the library board earlier this year. Flip through the PDF of the plan attached to this article.
Near the end of May, Head of Outreach, PR and Programming Rosetta Metz emailed members of the press with news of the community urban garden, describing the project as an edible garden with three 4 feet by 8 feet garden beds on the south side of the library, facing Lincoln Avenue.
Three local businesses, Avon, MB Financial and Creative Promotional Products, agreed to sponsor the garden with a total of $1,500 in donations.
Additionally students in Niles West's Garden Club and one Girl Scout troop also agreed to pitch in, according to Metz. The planting date was set by the previous library board for June 7.
On June 3, Metz emailed members of the press with this statement:
"I regret to inform you that the Library Community Urban Garden Program has been halted at this time. The new Library Board decided they wanted to learn more about the daily operations, maintenance and cost of this program. All work is to be held off until the Board and the Building & Grounds Committee convene. I am in the process of informing the volunteers, sponsors and press that were planning to attend our scheduled planting day on Tuesday, June 7 at 4:00 that the program is on hold at this time for further review by the Library Board."
During the public comment section in the beginning of the evening, a third grader in Morton Grove's Camp Fire USA troop asked why her scheduled time to garden had been cancelled.
Near the end of the meeting, two main arguments surrounding the garden were discussed: Does the garden fall under the duties of librarians, and has the garden been sufficiently planned in advance?
"We were given everything about what was going to be done," said Trustee Art Goldstein, who served on the board before April elections.
Trustee Christa Quinn said, "I have to have some confidence in the people [trustees] who approved the plan. The Village was included to make sure it wouldn't be an eye-sore, and we checked our due-diligence to make sure it’s done right. We cannot go second-guess every single thing...The intent is so that people learn. It’s part of what we do from a youth services standpoint."
Trustee Catherine Peters said she agreed "1,000 percent" but was concerned that most of the work would fall on paid staff.
"We need commitments from what kids at what time are working on the garden," Peters said, and fears that "our staff is going to be out there having to take care of the garden [when the] library's function is to teach about garden management with books and lectures."
Director Ben Schapiro countered Peters' point with the reminder that volunteer events require organization, no matter if its TechFest or a community garden.
"It’s always done with a backbone of paid staff; volunteers don’t organize without structure," Schapiro said.
Paul Berg, a trustee who was elected this spring, spoke up. "This is borderline library [duties]. I just hope that any employee who doesn’t want to pick weeds is not* made to pick a few weeds," he said.
Peters reiterated that she did not believe it is fair to the staff, while Schapiro underlined the garden's role as an educational tool.
"Do you know how big a cucumber plant is?" Peters asked Metz. "I hope you are not expecting to use staff time to weed the garden."
In the end, Berg motioned for the approval of the garden, and Quinn seconded it. The two trustees make up the Building and Grounds committee of the board.
*Correction 6/11, 8 a.m.: The quote mistakenly did not include the word 'not.'