In celebration of Earth Day, central Oklahoma’s Pioneer Library System hosted a community event focused on pollinators at Boy Scout Park in Shawnee. It featured a presentation from an author, family-friendly activities and the chance to see a live beehive.
The library holds an annual reading program called PLS Reads. This year, they have selected several books with a theme and are hosting a Spark a Change event with each title, designed to empower community members to action and improvement. The 2022 theme is the environment, and their first book, The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin, puts pollinators at the forefront of a regular woman’s life.
Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal member and PLS programming specialist Britt Muirhead organized the family activities that filled the pavilion at the park. They included
a meet-and-greet with the author and a presentation from Okies for Monarchs, an initiative to create and implement the Statewide Monarch Conservation Plan.
“I think it’s just a great pairing between Eileen Garvin and her experience with beekeeping and Okies for Monarchs and their experience with pollinators. It’s been really inspiring and educational,” Muirhead said. “This topic is tons of fun and is very timely and something that’s really important for folks to get some more education and information on.”
The crowd first heard from Garvin about her fictional work The Music of Bees, the story of an amateur beekeeper and the friendships and earthly connections that change her life. An amateur beekeeper herself, Garvin was thrilled PLS Reads chose her first novel for their 2022 program and enjoyed speaking to the crowd.
“It’s so wonderful to see funding and organization behind sharing stories because we all know books do such good in the world but sometimes are prohibitively expensive for people. So, to be able to do something like, bring an author in and give (books) away, it really is a gift to the community,” she said.
Muirhead also reached out to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Department of Environmental Protection, who gathered donations of calendars, coloring books, leaflets on pollinators and other giveaway items from state and federal environmental regulatory agencies across Oklahoma. CPN tribal member and environmental coordinator Lexi Freeman believes places like public libraries present an important path toward ecological education.
“I think the library is a catch-all for everybody,” she said. “You have young and old. So, when you can reach a broad audience, it’s nice” because everyone has a stake in the environment.
The attendees learned while listening and then participated in activities, including creating seed bombs to promote the growth of pollinator-friendly plants; making bee puddles to provide a safe, shallow space for honeybees to grab a drink of water; painting rocks to beautify a butterfly garden and more. Local resident Chris Garner made seed bombs with her husband. They wanted to include a more natural habitat on their new property under construction.
“This (activity) sounded very interesting to me because I’ve never thought about doing something like this before. So, we’re making little cups out of clay, like a little miniature bowl. And I like to play with clay anyway. And we’re just going to put some seeds in it and cover it with some soil. And then we’ll put them in these little brown bags. And then when we take them home, we can put them out, and then … we’ll start growing some plants,” she said.
The library system’s first event of the year offered families a great way to learn and spend time together on Earth Day.
“We really want to help people connect with the world around them and understand all of the ways that we can help and impact and build better communities and a better world,” said PLS Shawnee branch manager Peggy Cook.
Mary Garcia came with her family to meet author Eileen Garvin after reading her book as part of the Ravenous Readers book club in McLoud, Oklahoma. However, she also enjoyed the presentation from Stephanie Jones from Okies for Monarchs, and it got her thinking about her garden.
“It was great. It was very informative. I’m going to go plant some bee and butterfly-friendly plants now,” Garcia said.
Pioneer Library System Director of Community Engagement and Learning Ashley Welke organizes the Spark a Change events with these types of interactions as part of her vision.
“That, I think, is what this event is all about for us,” she said. “Obviously, with the library, we love books. We love reading. And I love this idea that a book can be inspiration to get curious and learn more about and maybe discover a new passion, or in this instance for this year, a new way they can support the environment.”
Find out more about the Pioneer Library System and its programs at pioneerlibrarysystem.org.