Shelf Life: S. Huntington Public Library Introduces Learning Garden

This summer, the South Huntington Public Library unveiled a garden. The SHPL Learning Garden, made up of four raised beds behind the building, will be used to teach patrons of all ages about organic gardening and nature. 

Right now, the beds of the Learning Garden are tended to by Ray Capone, head of building and grounds, and José Recinos, one of the library’s full-time custodians. So far, the duo planted kale, Swiss chard, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, herbs, and tomatoes, with more to come.

To get patrons testing their own green thumbs, the library is running a children’s garden club. This six-week program teaches first through fifth graders about garden care and home-grown food.

The produce grown in the Learning Garden will be donated to different local organizations. So far, the library has donated to the food pantry at St. Hugh’s, in Huntington Station.

Catherine Schmoller, SHPL head of adult programming and public relations, said that the Learning Garden is part of the library’s effort to become more sustainable. “Our library is participating in the New York Library Association’s Sustainability Initiative,” she explained. To do this, the library must adhere to NYLA’s guidelines and embody practices that are environmentally sound, economically feasible, and socially equitable.

The program’s first environment-based step is well under way at SHPL. In addition to creating the Learning Garden, the library has made efforts to recycle more materials, switch cleaning and paper products to greener counterparts, and replace the facility’s lights with LED bulbs. These tasks are led by a “Green Team,” made up of staff members who guide the process, document progress, and encourage staff and patron participation. “After completing the environmental component, the library will receive its Green Business Certification,” Schmoller said, adding that the library hopes to accomplish this in the fall.

After obtaining its Green Business Certification, the library will then be able to complete the sustainability initiative’s next two steps. The economic component, Schmoller said, requires that the library comply with all regulations, adhere to proper governance, and manage finances in ways that best serve the community and allow the library to respond and adapt to community needs. The social component involves the library treating employees fairly and providing opportunities for growth; being a good neighbor and member of the community; and providing equal access and opportunity for all.

Schmoller said that receiving certification from the New York Library Association maps on to the library’s existing philosophy. “Sustainable thinking aligns the library’s core values with the community’s, to create a better place to live and work,” she said. “[Values including] access, democracy, diversity, education, and social responsibility, among others.”

“We’d like to set an example for patrons,” Schmoller said of the library’s ongoing sustainability efforts. With the Learning Garden in particular, Schmoller hopes that patrons will take its lessons home with them. We hope that they will be inspired to grow some of their own food,” she said. “Whether it’s a tomato plant in a container on their patio, or a large vegetable garden.”

The Learning Garden was funded by a contribution from the Friends of the South Huntington Library.

SHPL cardholders interested in the children’s garden club, can register for the program in person, online, or over the phone at (631) 549-4411. supports literacy efforts. If you have book-related information you’d like to share, email Molly Prep

Alyson Richman on Long Island, Writing, and Book Revue

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