Leaf Piles @ The Library

This fall our Children’s Library will be losing it’s large Ash tree that is home to our library dragon. The kids have been relieved that he’s already grown so much that he has to use our entire row of Bradford Pear trees as a home. But everyone’s sad about losing its autumn leaves.

For the first several years that our Children’s Library was opened, we dreaded the approach of fall because it meant an endless battle with the yellow leaves that would blow into our building and just make a mess throughout the neighborhood. It felt futile to keep sweeping leaves back outside, and we didn’t want to bring out the vacuum several times per day.

And then a magical thing happened. It looked a bit like this:


Let me explain: three years ago Ashlynn, one of our awesome team members, decided to take matters into her own hands and grabbed a rake. She made three decent-sized leaf piles on the side yard and told us that she’d keep raking them up in case kids wanted to play in them. This solved the problem of the rogue leaves getting everywhere, and was a HUGE hit with both kids and their parents/caregivers. After all, many of our patrons live in newer housing developments that don’t have mature trees, and although playing in leaf piles is great, it does double lawn work.

Sadly, last year there wasn’t really an autumn. We left work one evening and there were leaves just starting to turn yellow, and we arrived the next day to a bare tree and no leaves in sight. A big freezing storm had rolled through overnight and didn’t leave us enough leaves to even make an ant-sized pile.

But this year? It is AWESOME!!! We decided to do two larger piles, and within hours families were frolicking in our foliage. Heh.

Here’s a few photos for you to see how we do it (there’s a second smaller pile on the other side of the tree – it’s pictured above – you just can’t see it in any of the following pictures). And if you like what you see in the photos, then keep scrolling because I’ll share some resources and more information in case you want to try leaf piles at your library!

Things to Know and Use

  • I used this font and this font for the sign. On the leafy font, I used Photoshop to fill in the leaves with fall colors. But if you don’t have access to Photoshop, then you can print out the wording in brown and use colored pencils to fill in the leaves for a similar look.
  • Recently I’ve been more consciously trying to point out early literacy skills in the things that we do. With this sign we hit hard the importance of play. Then on the back we share two songs that can be sung while playing. Hooray for even more early literacy skills!
  • Here’s the front of the sign’s text (minus the legal disclaimer since you’d need to make it your own), and the back of the sign. Feel free to use both or either one, and modify to your heart’s content.
  • The sign itself was one from an older event. I tore up brown butcher paper up, lightly pasted it on the front and back, and then covered the whole thing (but not the bottom) in packing tape. Then I used looped scotch tape to arrange/place the various cut outs and used even more packing tape to secure it and lightly laminate it. It needs to hold up outside, but we do plan on bringing it inside if it gets rainy.
  • We’re going to try and slowly move the leaf pile locations around the yard. The previous time we kept them in the same place and they left a circle of brown grass all throughout the following summer. Oops.
  • We do our best in counting the number of people having fun with our leaves. After all, it’s a bit more active passive program since we do need to go out and rebuild the piles at least once-a-day.

At some point I need to start posting about core concepts/ideas that have really helped me as someone in the library world – especially from the management standpoint. I mention this because this is the perfect example of librarian problem-solving at its best. I mean, we face lots of issues and challenges being in such a small space, and I’ve learned to reframe these things as being the perfect chance for creative problem-solving. Which we should excel at. We’re library people.

And that’s about it! Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions either in the comments, or through email (hafuboti@gmail.com).

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