Gardening During the Pandemic: One Agriculture Librarians’ Experience with Leveraging Covid-19 to Build Stronger Relationships is a poster in the 2020 PNLA Virtual Poster Session. We encourage you to engage in discussion by leaving a comment on the page. The author of the poster will respond to comments the week of August 4-7, 2020.

Presenter: David Luftig

Track: Academic Library

Abstract: As the Covid-19 pandemic forced people to physically distance, many turned to gardening as a way to get outside, grow healthy food, and to create a sense of self-reliance. For example, some news outlets began reporting on community trends similar to those seen in the Victory Gardens of World War II.

As an agricultural sciences librarian, at a land-grant university, who was also relatively new to campus, I saw the pandemic as a unique opportunity to connect with faculty, citizens, and extensions located across the state. It was my hope that I could leverage the crises so as to build better relationships.

This poster examines some of the strategies that I used to build relationships during the pandemic and some of the resources that I created. Some resources, such as an open access gardening library guide found an unexpected degree of popularity. I was also able to promote many of the Washington State University Extension documents which has further helped to build relationships within my own subject area.

In all, the pandemic has provided a unique opportunity to introduce myself, build relationships, and to promote university resources.


About the Presenter: David Luftig is the new-ish agricultural sciences librarian at Washington State University. David is particularly interested in issues of historic land use, sustainable agriculture, and social justice as it relates food and agriculture. He received his M.S.I.S. from the University of Illinois.

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Erin Hvizdak
3 years ago

Did you notice anything interesting/problematic/or even good about open access materials in gardening? Where are there opportunities for improvement of gardening open access resources? And what type of response did you get from the community? I like Katy’s question below regarding indigenous practices around food, too!

David Luftig
Reply to  Erin Hvizdak
3 years ago

@ Katy. Gardening is rewarding! And yes, grounding. I had no idea how to garden in this strange “Palouse” soil, so that really got the ball rolling with this project. Plus, the Master Gardeners are just an amazing group of people.

That’s a great question regarding “indigenous history, knowledge, and practices.” I believe being an agriculture librarian, at the Washington land-grant, on the ceded lands of the Palus and Nimiipuu peoples brings many responsibilities. So this is something I’ve been working and collaborating on. I’d like to do more. There’s a small section on the guide about “Growing Native Plants of the Palouse” but not much. I did create a “Historic Agriculture and Land Use Resources” LibGuide which hopefully provides a gateway into learning about how the land has been viewed and utilized over time. There’s many links to great indigenous resources there. It’s still a work in progress:

. I have not read Braiding Sweetgrass but will put it on my list. Thanks!

@ Erin

That’s a great question as well open open-access. Being newer to the Ag. field, I actually struggled to find quality open-access resources but I did want to have at least some scholarly resources on the guide.

I actually failed a bit in this process. I thought I vetted all of the open-access resources but I heard from a faculty member about two or three journal on that LibGuide. A couple weren’t truly open-access and another was a bit, um, shady. They were listed in “Ulrich’s Periodicals” as open and refereed but that wasn’t the entire story. So this provided an opportunity learn and also to show some humility, which I did. I’ve kept in touch with this faculty member since.

As far as responses from the community, it’s been positive. That said, I do worry it’s mostly on the surface as the Extensions can be a real hard place to provide outreach as many are community members do not have access to the university catalog (hence the open-access resources) and are quite far geographically from campus. I’d say, at the very least, this project gave me an opportunity to engage with the Extensions, and the community, which I really wanted to do. I also had the opportunity to distribute a survey to a couple of the Extensions that I worked with- so as to gauge what sort of library resources would be helpful to them. It turns out many members believe they have created resources, guides, observations, etc. that could serve WSU and the State of Washington. I have just begun to have a conversation with the University Archives regarding collecting some of these materials

3 years ago

Love this project and your libguide!! I started gardening / growing food this spring and it has been one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences during this difficult time– quite literally grounding. It’s so great that you are supporting that through your work at the library. I especially appreciate the native plants section. Do you have any resources you highlight related to indigenous history, knowledge, and practices? I read Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer last fall, which has really changed the way I think about plants and food, and farming and consumption…

Thank you!

Hanwen Dong
3 years ago

David, can you talk a bit more on how you promoted the resources you created? I am also new-ish in my position as the liaison to our extensions so I appreciate any insights you have. Thanks.

David Luftig
Reply to  Hanwen Dong
3 years ago

You bet. First, I was very lucky to have my story and LibGuide promoted within a University-wide Libraries newsletter. So I got a lot of exposure just from that. I have also joined every Extensions Listserv that would have me, so I strategically promoted resources when appropriate. Finally, I cannot overstate the importance of finding good contacts/advocates within the program. I think, early on, my dedication and enthusiasm was clear and Extension participants and leaders were receptive to that. When I first came to campus, I sent an introduction email to everyone that I could find addresses for within the College of Ag./Extensions. I then had the opportunity to meet some members and directors for coffee at different times. So having contacts who know you, and mutually support the mission, was also really helpful. That is how I got invited to present to numerous Extensions. Let me know if you’d like more details. Thanks for the question!

3 years ago

What a great engagement technique — especially for a Land Grant. I always felt like the Extension offices could act is a mini-branch offices for the college library to engage the community.

David Luftig
Reply to  Rick
3 years ago

I agree! I was really excited to be the subject librarian for the Extensions when I first began my position. I previously worked for a private school so I was really happy to be able to engage with the community (plus they do really great work!)

3 years ago

Thanks so much for this! I feel like I’ve been really focused on the ways that my programming and community connection has contracted in the last few months, so it’s really refreshing to see your successes with expanding.

David Luftig
Reply to  Caitlin
3 years ago

Thanks! It was nice to have a small success during these very trying times.