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Morton Grove Library Board Approves Urban Garden

The contentious board meeting discusses the role of the library.

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.'

Jennifer Alvarado June 12, 2011 at 02:30 AM
Thank you Al, I agree. Not everyone has a vegetable garden in their backyard, so teaching these kids about gardening is a valuable learning experience. It's too bad that Ms.Peters does not see the benefit. I am terrified for the next several years with the current library and village board. I think rainbows and sunny days may be next on the chopping block. Thank goodness the Park District is a seperate board!
Renée Miller June 12, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Yes, please keep the conversation civil and the facts correct. Incorrect facts is what gave us a board that had never used the library until a few days before the election and felt that the library was not common ground to discuss library business. I am surprised that they are willing to hold board meetings in the board room. After all, it is in the library, which by the way is much more that just a repository for books. Time to join the 21st century and find out the wonders that are available to children and other avid learners.
sherwin dubren June 13, 2011 at 01:30 AM
Why does this news outlet not cover Morton Grove village meetings or discuss items up for discussion at the next board meeting? There are several ordinances up for vote at the next meeting. One is of concern to me allowing Morton Grove police to enter our private property to check for violations of village vehicle codes. This is a bit heavy handed and not the most friendly way to solve the problem of people not keeping their village stickers up to date. They will be caught when stopped for other traffic violations or spotted when parked on a street. I think this kind of ordinance sets a bad precedent, which is an invasion of our privacy. Does the village expect to make a windfall profit by snagging a few sluffers who forgot or deliberately did not update their village sticker. We know what vehicles are registered to Morton Grove residents, obtainable from State of Illinois records. It is an easy cross check to find out who applied or didn't apply for a village sticker. A mailed warning should be the first step.
Ann June 17, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Sherwin, you are in the wrong article. You already posted those inaccuracies under the article about the village meetnig where they voted on those ordinances. Keep focused. We are talking about inefficiencies at the library, specifically using tax money, which is what pays the operating expenses at the library such as staff salaries, to plant and maintain a vegetable garden. Community gardens are nowhere near the mission of a library, and for one under such scrutiny for how they expend their resources, this seems like a big stretch. Yes, volunteer projects need structure and coordination, but a qualified voluntgeer can do that. And there are many, many examples of volunteers doing that and more. A paid staff member of a library should not be spending any significant amount of time on garden project. In most communities, people pay for the priveledge of having a plot in a community garden. Those funds would support any expenses incurred by any organization in the maintenance of the garden area. No taxpayer money spent. Not a bad idea - finding ways to cover expenses rather than relying on tax money intended for a different purpose, such as serving the mission of the libary. I would encourage our library to look into such an idea.
Jennifer Alvarado June 17, 2011 at 11:02 PM
It's a maximum 1-hour program for a librarian teaching kids about gardening when they are scheduled to come in, like a camp group, or Cub Scouts,etc.. Showing them that what they buy in the stores, they can grow themselves. Maybe a staff member may have to put 5 minutes of overseeing the volunteers while the volunteers are weeding, or fertilizing, etc. but really, you are argueing against 3- 4X8 planters that show youth about produce? It's not like the librarian needs to go out and till fields instead of shelving books or reading toddlers storytime books...GEESH!

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