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Community garden garners Murkowski’s attention: Newly established at Ketchikan Public Library
The beginnings of a community garden sit next to the Ketchikan Public Library on Sept. 16. Staff photo by Taylor Balkom

Daily News Staff Writer

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has nominated the Ketchikan Public Library to receive the National Medal for Museum and Library Service for its new community garden, according to Library Director Pat Tully.

The medal is awarded to an “outstanding” library or museum that “contributes significantly to the well-being of their communities,” according to the Institute of Museum and Library Service.

If the library wins the award, the staff will be invited to attend the award ceremony in Washington D.C. in the spring, according to the organization.

Tully said Sen. Murkowski, or her staff, must have noticed the garden when she attended the signing of Senate Bill 88, which took place at the library on Aug. 10.

“It was incredibly exciting that the senator actually knew about the garden and thought enough of the garden (at) the library to nominate us for this award,” Tully said.

For either Sen. Murkowski or her staff to notice the garden is quite an astute observation, as it currently sits outside of the library in its beginning stage — raised wooden boxes filled with soil.

Come next spring, however, the garden will be moving right along. Library-goers will be able to slide on a pair of gloves, pick up a shovel, and get to work on the garden — which came to fruition after three years of being placed on the backburner.

Before she was even employed there, Rebecca Jackson noticed the empty patch of concrete outside of the children’s section when she was taking a master gardening class at the library.

After she was hired as the children’s library assistant in 2014, she brought the idea for the garden with her — but there was no funding to support it until this year.

The library received two grants this past year: a $2,700 grant procured by the Friends of the Library from the Ketchikan Community Foundation, and another for $2,000 from the Alaska State Library.

KPL Youth Services Coordinator Amanda Kiely said the grant money will be used for supplies such as shovels, gloves and vegetables — such as beets, potatoes and peas — to plant.

“I would also like to get professionals in the community — chefs, or biologists that know about soil, or bugs, or plants — (to) come in and teach,” Kiely added.

While Kiely plans her literacy programs like nature journals and storytimes at the garden, Jackson will be organizing her gardening programs for the upcoming year.

“Part of the grant goal,” Kiely noted, “was really to teach kids in Ketchikan about the growing process — how food (is) really grown and harvested — because so few people do garden and grow their own food here, because it’s not very easy.”

Although there are many possibilities for children’s programing surrounding the garden, Kiely and Jackson hope the community knows it's for everyone.

“We want the community to feel like they can come up anytime to weed, and water, and just help out with it,” Kiely said. “The thing that’s really important to me is, I want the community to feel like it’s theirs, not like it’s the library’s and we’re letting them come for a program.”