BRATTLEBORO — Tools for food cultivation, preservation and processing will soon be kept inside a shed behind Brooks Memorial Library as a project intended to increase food security.
“This is something that we’ve wanted to do since I got here,” said Starr LaTronica, who became the library director in 2016. “And luckily, Stephen Dotson was the perfect co-conspirator for me to work with on this and he found the grant.”
Dotson, the town’s sustainability coordinator, is credited with finding the Field to Fork grant that will provide $19,600 for the project.
Funds will go toward purchasing gardening tools and food preparation tools such as canning equipment that might be too large to fit in kitchen cupboards and is only used occasionally, LaTronica said.
Food processors also will be bought. They can be expensive to invest in, LaTronica said.
“This gives people a chance to try it out, sort of like what we’re doing with the electric bikes,” she said, referring to a program where people test out the bikes to see if they might want to get their own. “A lot of libraries are going down this road because, really, we realize that the library is a place of shared community resources.”
Only library card holders will have access to items in the shed.
For the project, the library is teaming up with Brattleboro Time Trade and Edible Brattleboro.
Programming on preserving and preparing food is anticipated to start in the spring, around the time when a shed holding the items is slated to be set up behind the library.
The shed will be constructed “because we just don’t have the room to keep all this stuff in the library,” LaTronica said. Part of the grant also will fund a part-time position in which someone will check in and check out the equipment, making sure it comes back in good condition.
“I’m just so grateful for our partnership with the Planning Department and Stephen, and Time Trade and Edible Brattleboro,” LaTronica said. “Those are great partners and we look forward to cultivating our relationship and preserving it.”
About 40 years ago, LaTronica worked for California’s Berkley Public Library when it just started its tool lending library. Now, she said, “it’s going stronger than ever and it’s a highly valued community resource because these are things that people don’t use on a regular basis. It’s great that they can share them and they don’t need to spend money.”
“It’s all part of the sharing economy,” LaTronica said.
Dotson said he’s really inspired by Brooks Memorial Library’s thinking “outside of the book” and finding new ways to be a resource during a difficult period of time.
“This collection is responding to lessons learned from COVID around food insecurity, but in time, we hope to see Brooks’ library of things expand to focus on other needs such as energy efficiency and home repair,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed helping to kickstart this and look forward to helping find support and resources to see it grow.”
Dotson also expressed appreciation for the guidance and support from Edible Brattleboro and Brattleboro Time Trade. He said throughout the last 18 months, the groups helped town staff answer questions about how the tool lending library would run and what equipment it should contain to meet the community’s needs.