Dagmar Giesecke, translated by Jenny Rosenberg

There’s more going on in public libraries than just reading. For a few years now “reading rooms” (as they were called in their early days) have been expanding their offerings.

The same is happening at the “Maria Buch” central library in Tempelhof’s Götzstraße. In a four-hour period on July 14th, one such offering took place – in the garden and with beautiful weather, appropriate for Corona and the time of year. The plan was the construction and planting of two raised beds. In preparation, the close-by allotments “Feldblume”, located directly behind the town hall, had been written to, asking for their cooperation and possible donations. The request was forwarded to the head of the associated teaching garden, who immediately offered to help by providing self-grown seedlings and vegetables, as well as flowers and the material needed to fill the raised beds. One day before the event our group, made up entirely of volunteers, carted whatever we could spare to the site. Ch. and I spontaneously decided we would participate the following day. So we showed up on time at the meeting point on the next day, already excited to see who else might be interested to take part in a project like this. And in fact there were ten more interested people, young and old, who were up for the challenges of the workshop. Most of them did not know each other, but quickly found a common ground.

After a short introduction round and a description of the assignment, we started work. For each part of the work, a group was formed. I was fascinated to notice that there were no long discussions – the groups just formed by themselves. Some were sawing, others constructed the raised beds or screwed the sawn boards onto the beds to serve as benches. After all, Corona is going to be over some time in the future, and then people will be able to use them as a relaxed, quiet spot to sit with a book. Afterwards, we all filled the raised beds with a first layer of old wood, branches and other organic material, using one or other of the nearby bushes as a source, tidying their wilder edges in the process. Throughout the entire process, fantasy and spontaneity were a must. And at one point the news program “Berliner Abendschau” stopped by and recorded a report that was aired that evening.

As soon as we realised we could use a bit more filler, we quickly organised some additional waste compost from the teaching garden. Then the planting started. Together, we decided which plants should go where – donations had also come in from others besides the teaching garden. Also here, there were no big discussions – whatever did not fit in the beds anymore was planted spontaneously somewhere else, or set aside for the next workshop that was planned for a couple of days’ time at the Marienfelde district library.

For me, it was an interesting an informative morning. For one thing, the two workshop leaders granted the group a lot of freedom without letting us get lost, and for another, I realised once again how little effort and resources are needed to create sustainable things. And, that people can still come into contact with each other even in today’s world. It only takes an open outlook and an interest in others.

And now I finally know how the whole raised-bed thing works!