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  • FromEdith

Week 37: Patty Parks

Dear Batter Up friends, meet Patty Parks—the head honcho people wrangler at the Richmond Public Library!

Patty was nominated by Edith Ridderhof (pictured with Patty). This is what Edith wrote in her nomination email:

“I first met [Patty] when she was with the William Byrd. She was the outreach director and the manager of the Byrd Farmers Market. She started the Cooking as a 2nd Language classes (alas, since her departure they’ve kind of fizzled). She is a tireless promoter and people wrangler. If you look at all of the programs at the Main Branch of the Library, that’s all Patty. I’m attaching a picture so you get an idea of what kind of dynamo she is (taken at Broad Appetit). I can give you a number of people who will give her glowing reviews.”

Edith had nominated Patty back when the Batter Up project first started—before I had gotten organized—and the nomination slipped through the cracks. I discovered the original email not long ago while digging through my inbox and immediately reached out to Edith about scheduling a delivery. This lady needed a cake! Patty isn’t an easy person to nail down so Edith enlisted the help of another library employee (David) to set up a fake meeting. We showed up, hid out in a meeting room, and waited for Patty to arrive. When she and David walked in she was, as expected, quite confused and didn’t understand why Edith and I were joining the meeting. I started to explain that she didn’t really have a meeting and launched into my normal schpeel at which point she cut me off and said, “I’ve read about you—I’ve been to your blog.” YES! This almost never happens—and it’s so much more fun when it does.

Once the initial shock wore off, David headed out to do whatever he would have normally been doing during that “meeting” time and Patty, Edith, and I had a meeting of our own. I got to spend about an hour with the two of them and I can assure you—Patty is truly a special gem. So much so that I find myself sitting here, writing this blog post, with no idea how to even begin to regurgitate all of the programs that this woman brings to the library. She has a wonderful relationship with Marlene Sehen, a horticulturist with the Federal Reserve, which allows her to bring tons of programming related to gardening and growing. They even have a seed catalog where you can go in and “check-out” seeds for you to grow in your own gardens. Of course if you don’t know what you’re doing, there’s a class for that. You can take a class on flower arranging. You can take swing dancing classes. You can take writing classes—there’s even a class devoted specifically to memoir writing. (I’ll be signing up for that one!) She started the people’s library—a program where handmade papers were made to fill the pages of repurposed books and were distributed for people to write their stories. Now you can go in, check the books out, and read all about the people who chose to write in them. Patty implemented a 5-week diversity series to help non-native English speakers practice their English in an open, relaxed environment designed for people to get to know one another. The list literally goes on and on and on.

A quick scan of their Facebook page reveals a workshop on how to find funding for your non-profit, a First Friday Writers Series, a seed workshop (told you there was a class for that), a homeownership education program, a nurturing parenting 15-week series, and a coupon clipping program. And all of these were just posted in the last week! In the warmer months you can find tons of action outside in their garden space behind the building—anything from tea, to poetry readings, to a Girls Rock concert. Of course there are books clubs too. (It is a library, after all.) For those of you that are fans of Jane Austen, there’s a Jane Austen book club starting up soon. And did I mention that it’s all free? You don’t have to be a resident of the city to join—county folk are welcome too. You don’t even have to be a card-carrying member of the library. They’d prefer it if you would take the time sign-up ahead of time for the various programs, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be turned away if you don’t.

Patty was quick to tell me that a lot of hands are on deck to implement all of these programs and events, but it is abundantly clear to me that she is the heart, soul, and energy driving the efforts. And if there is something you’d like to see happen at the library, all you have to do is ask. Edith made a comment last year that they should participate in the RVA Park(ing)Day—a day in which people adopt a parking spot and turn it into a small park. Within 2.2 seconds Patty had three spots reserved in front of the library and was planning what to do with them. And why does she do all of this? Simple—to create informal education opportunities that drive people to the library. Bringing people in the doors, for whatever reason, automatically exposes them to the books that live on the shelves. Patty believes that reading fosters empathy which creates better citizenry. What a beautiful thought.

And now for this week’s cake! Patty got a Blood Orange Cake which came from the blog Annie’s Eats (recipe found here.) While we were waiting for Patty to enter the room Edith, who has been following Batter Up from the beginning, referenced some of my earlier cakes and the mishaps surrounding them. (Who am I kidding—I still have mishaps all the time!) Being a designer like me, Edith could relate to the difficulties of following recipes and how baking is difficult for brains that are trained to break rules. Having said that, this cake is a huge nod to how far I’ve come. You see, those little orange slices on top of that cake are candied. Yes, I’ll say it again—I candied fruit! *beats on chest like Tarzan* Before you know it, I’ll be teaching a cake baking class at the library.

(Just kidding Patty—don’t get any ideas.)