Chesterton Tribune

Community garden for kids eyed for Hageman Library overflow parking lot

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The Westchester Public Library Board liked what it heard Thursday about a proposal to turn the overflow parking lot at Hageman Library in Porter into an accessible community garden with emphasis on children’s activities.

Hageman branch manager Suzanne Chomel and Tim Miller, who maintains WPL landscaping, laid out plans for a shallow, recirculating water feature to teach about aquatics; a pavillion shelter; a planted hoop-trellis walkway; raised flower beds; fruit trees and a vegetable garden.

“I love it,” said WPL board member Nick Tilden, a Porter resident. Board members also expressed enthusiasm and agreed to conduct the Sept. 21 meeting at Hageman to view the plans in more detail.

Miller and Chomel are working with Porter Public Works superintendent Brenda Brueckheimer on the project. The new garden area, north of the existing Hageman parking lot, first has to have the previous paving base removed from when the site was Hageman School years ago.

Library director Phil Baugher indicated there’s money in both the 2011 and 2012 budgets for developing the garden, but Miller said as yet there’s no firm cost estimate. Baugher said the greatest expense would be removing the asphalt/gravel and bringing in topsoil.

WPL attorney Terry Hiestand suggested a contractor looking for clean fill or road base may want to trade for the topsoil. Extension of water and electric service as well as concrete work also will be needed.

Chomel said so far several businesses and groups have shown interest in helping on the project; she expressed hope some work could begin this fall with completion in 2012.

Miller said he didn’t want to break ground until he had commitments that someone else would maintain the gardens, but he was willing to start a children’s garden club to teach about horticulture. Chomel said previous such projects with Miller proved popular with the children.

Baugher said library patrons and community residents may want to help keep the gardens in order.

“This sounds like a creative use for a vacant lot. It sounds very promising,” said board president Claire Jolie. “There’s a whole realm of things you could do with this situation --- cooking, canning.”

Baugher said a concern had been raised whether the garden would impede a future expansion of Hageman Library itself. Plans are to maintain an adjacent area for overflow parking and expansion, he assured.

In other business, Baugher reported that although the 886 children participating in the recently completed WPL summer reading program was 22 short of 2010’s total, he felt the quality of this year’s program was outstanding and well received. The Dragon Days and Summer Knights theme included a Medieval Faire.

The schools with the greatest number of participants, after 133 pre-school readers, were Bailly 99, Yost 79, Discovery Charter 78, Westchester Intermediate 75, Brummit 72, St. Patrick 68, Liberty 59, Jackson 57, Other 49, Chesterton Montessori 45, Homeschool 25, Liberty Intermediate 22, Fairhaven 13, Duneland Montessori and Chesterton Middle School both 6.

Baugher announced WPL has acquired 49 additional South Shore and South Shore-style posters for display at Thomas Library and the Library Service Center, both in Chesterton. The collection now represents all the available posters in the series.

In keeping with a National Day of Service to commemorate Sept. 11, WPL is encouraging volunteers to visit the libraries Sept. 11 and 12 to learn how to become “shelf elves” who replace returned books to their proper place.

Circulation at Thomas was down 6 percent in July but up 19 percent at Hageman with 223,553 items circulated year-to-date.

WPL remains in sound financial condition with $6.87 million in all accounts and investments. The Library Board voted 5-0 with Rick Hokanson and Drew Rhed absent to approve a 2012 plan of service and accompanying $3,111,359 budget proposal that goes before the Porter County Council Sept. 19 for a non-binding recommendation. WPL will conduct a public hearing on its budget Oct. 13.

The plan of service predicts strong library use during tough economic times as cash-strapped families turn to WPL for information, education and entertainment. WPL plans to maintain current operating hours, staffing levels, material acquisitions and programming services in 2012 but be ready to make reductions if necessary, said Baugher.

In addition to the Hageman garden, another special project being considered for next year is remodeling the dated lower-level restrooms at Thomas to make them more accessible. Renovation of the Service Center main restrooms is in progress.

On another matter, the Library Board briefly discussed whether to move its summer family films series, which is preceded by public concerts, out of downtown Thomas Park to another location because of the frequent train noise. Baugher said at one time Thomas was known as Railroad Park and hosted minstrel shows; the board agreed to keep the current location.

After receiving an email from a parent surprised her 13 year-old could rent R-rated movies from WPL, the board reviewed its lending policy but made no changes.

Baugher showed members the children/young adult user-agreement card parents are required to sign that stipulates “I am also aware the library does not restrict access to collections to children except for access to internet materials, and I am responsible for my child’s selection of materials.”

In addition, said the director, in several formats a letter to parents about children’s access to library materials is available to parents including that they may notify WPL if they wish their child’s access to certain materials be blocked. Giving the letter directly to parents at the time the user cards are signed was discussed.

Board member Michele Corazzo asked if WPL has seen a drop in its DVD circulation with the popularity of Netflix. Baugher said some but it’s still a high-traffic department. He noted some libraries are exploring offering movie downloads like they do online access to e-books.


Posted 8/12/2011