The Grace Farms Library is a unique space in many ways. What strikes most visitors when they first enter is the unconventional size and design of the space. The Library was imagined as a portal to the five initiatives as well as a community gathering space for the individual and groups. The tempo adjusts to a quieter pace, and offers a freedom to explore in an atmosphere that is not overwhelming. A large rectangular table for 20, centered within a transparent conference room, creates optimal privacy yet connection in a public space that is perfect for discussion.
With around 1,400 carefully curated volumes lining five SANAA designed bookcases, visitors often ask why and how Grace Farms decided on such a specific collection of books. “First, I believe that books can and do change the world, and I had a strong sense that a library at a place like Grace Farms, which promotes the work of those on the frontlines of nature, arts, justice, community, and faith, could be inspiring, supportive, and influential beyond reckoning,” said Grace Farms Library Manager, Kayla Beth Moore.
Keeping a slim selection was always a priority. In nearly every area of life we are inundated with information and bombarded by countless decisions. Grace Farms wanted to provide a reprieve by winnowing down the selection and presenting only the most excellent and relevant texts in each of its five initiative areas. Including a diversity of thought and perspective was also important, so Kayla Beth reached out to a wide variety of scholars, experts, and writers to get their feedback and advice on what we should include.
Those who graciously agreed to help build the Library’s collection became Grace Farms’ circle of “readers.” The readers were professors of philosophy, bioethics, and theology; psychiatrists; ethicists; judges; nonprofit leaders; poets; journalists; and activists. “After fascinating and memorable conversations about their expertise and its relation to Grace Farms, I would collect title recommendations from these experts based on the books they felt were the most important in their field, ones they would save if all the others in their discipline somehow disappeared,” Kayla Beth said.
From these varied lists of recommendations, the Library sections were formatted with Grace Farms’ initiatives in mind: Art + Beauty, Faith + Meaning, Justice + Ethics, Nature + Environment, and Community + Relationships. Each section contains key titles in the history of that discipline, contemporary classics, works from a global perspective, works with local implications, titles specific to Grace Farms programming, and even children’s literature. After compiling these sections along specific parameters, the readers once again gave feedback to help identify any biases or blind spots in the collection.
The result is the Grace Farms Library as it exists today, a trim, hand-selected collection of beautiful books. The hope is that from this small introduction to the great histories of thought, our guests might find a book, or many, that changes their lives, or at least their perspectives. It’s a collection meant to inspire and support the exploration of some of life’s biggest questions: What does it mean to live well? What is beauty? In what ways is the world broken, and what can I do to help?
In addition to the carefully curated shelves, the Library’s Justice Bar also provides digital access via iPads to many files in varying formats that include, among others, periodicals, poetry, lectures, and sermons. These can’t be removed from the Library, but Grace Farms invites you to listen, view, and discuss them within the volume’s glass walls. Additionally, Featured shelves, located to the left of our Library entrance, contain books and resources that have informed our most current programming at Grace Farms Foundation. These selections also contain books for younger audiences as well which, while not directly associated with our programming, provide access to the ideas explored here for younger guests.
Any book within the Library can be borrowed or purchased because, in the end, the guests are the ones who will use these resources, have the ideas, and do the work that makes Grace Farms meaningful.