IVCC's One Book One College group changing the landscape with planting of pollinator garden

Ellen Evancheck, Kim Radek-Hall and Jayna Leipart Guttilla are surrounded by a landscape plan and plant labels as they prepare the One Book One College Pollinator Garden at IVCC's front entrance. The activity kicks off the community book discussion program's fourth year. The book selected this year is a sci-fi novel, "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler. (Photo contributed)

OGLESBY – Illinois Valley Community College’s One Book One College book discussion series is growing. Not only is its fourth chapter sprouting this fall, but the program is also branching out into a new genre (science fiction) and on to more ambitious projects centered around the latest book theme.

The first of those projects took root recently as One Book volunteers planted a native pollinator garden at the college building’s main entrance. The plot filled with native wildflowers and grasses will illustrate the importance of the ecosystem and how locally and globally humans contribute to its survival or deterioration.

“We’re effectively changing a landscape! We’d never done anything on this scale before,” said College Librarian Jayna Leipart Guttilla, who is as excited by the garden activity as by the prospect of exploring and connecting to futuristic worlds in the sci-fi novel.

Garden and lifestyle practices preserve habitats where wildlife and pollinators like bees and butterflies that are vital parts of a healthy environment and economy can thrive. The message of rebirth and hope tempered by the underlying environmental threat ties in naturally to a study of Octavia Butler’s post-apocalyptic novel, “Parable of the Sower.” Butler’s tale of global climate change, economic crises and social chaos reached store shelves in 1993 but seems particularly pertinent amid today’s headlines, Guttilla said.

Butler’s message is that “we need to think about the community over the individual and that change is inevitable and a part of the natural cycle of our lives. So it’s important to be resilient in the face of destruction and scary change and to learn to manage it, whether it’s climate anxiety or personal anxiety,” Leipart Guttilla added.

She believes the garden sustains OBOC’s mission to establish a safe haven for the community to speak about difficult issues. Racism, prescription drug addiction, and working poverty and how the community responds to and is affected by them have been the past topics.

A bench made from sustainable materials and boulders moved from the East Campus will add man-made and natural seating to create an inviting space to feel safe and relax, regroup and reflect, she said. Visitors can also admire the garden from inside the building through large windows overlooking it.

English instructors and a biology instructor expect to weave the season’s theme into their class discussions, Leipart Guttilla said. Butler’s life and work are fertile ground for examination and exploration, Leipart Guttilla added: she fostered a cultural movement known as Afrofuturism, and her unique perspective on change and control was shaped by being Black and a woman.

One Book’s 2023-24 season kicks off at campus Spirit Day on Sept. 13, and activities continue throughout fall and spring. A garden open house is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 18. As another tie-in to the program and the garden, packets of mixed wildflower seeds designed by Leipart Guttilla and filled by Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota – which supplied the garden’s plants and design -- will be distributed on campus, to the community upon request through the OBOC website, and through area Little Free Libraries.

For more information on OBOC and the garden, visit https://libguides.ivcc.edu/onebookonecollege.