By Beth McGough, Communications and Creative Services Manager
"Our goal is to provide seeds and education to the community to promote urban gardening, but we're also promoting self-reliance and good, nutritional food," [Carla] Bauman, [branch Director, Allen County Public Library, Little Turtle branch, says.
"But I think a byproduct of that is we're creating community - a new community of gardeners in our community that cuts across all ages and demographic areas." (Journal-Gazette, Feb. 14, 2016)
As libraries expand services to meet community needs they are lending tools, artwork, exercise equipment, and more. You can add seeds (yes, for gardening) to the list with the emergence of seed libraries at public and academic libraries.
Seed libraries provide the community with a free resource for growing healthy foods and they promote sustainability and biodiversity.
Staying true to the principles of sustainability, seed libraries are often housed in an old card catalog or microfilm cabinet. They offer a variety of seeds to library patrons from common lettuces to heirloom tomatoes and beans. Gardeners are encouraged to add new seeds from their garden at the end of the season.
Some run on the honor system while others are focused on seed preservation and curation.
Created in 2010, the seed library at Richmond Public Library (CA) organizes seeds as “Super Easy,” “Easy,” and “Difficult” to help new and experienced gardeners choose seeds. Rebecca Newburn of Richmond Public Library explains “We’re seeing the rebirth of seed saving as an essential part of home gardening and local resilience. My vision is that more and more communities will have seed libraries and systems for locally grown seeds.” (Jankowsha, 242)
Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University McRae Library holds a seed library that started with purchased seeds and aims to collect heirloom seeds from local farmers. Librarian Jolene Reid tells Library Journal:
“Gardeners are storytellers, and as we bring in donations, capturing the story of those seeds has become a huge part of the project. There are seeds that came over in the pockets of immigrants, and we have a chance to gather those stories, share them, and make them accessible online so the stories can keep traveling along with the seeds.”
"Humans have been saving seeds for generations, but in recent times many have forgotten," says Rebecca Swanger, adult services librarian and volunteer coordinator at the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library. (American Libraries)
Libraries work with local Extension Centers and avid gardeners to offer programming on gardening. The Mountain View Public Library worked with the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library, a local gardening blogger Patricia Larenas, and a local hero, firefighter and gardener Firefighter Mike to develop programming. Mountain View Public Libraries continues to engage local experts for gardening programs, as do many other libraries.
Thinking about adding a seed library? Richmond Grows is a resource provided by the Richmond Public Library (CA) for libraries. The site provides information on starting and running a seed library, plus resources for promoting your seed library.
Chant, Ian, “Q&A: Jolene Reid: Seed Library Takes Root,” Library Journal, May 2014
Jankowsha, Maria A., Focus on Educating for Sustainability, Library Juice Press
Salter Rodriguez, Rosa, “Check out Seeds at Library Little Turtle Branch Joins Growing Trend,” Journal-Gazette, Feb 14, 2016, P. F6
Weak, Emily, “Simple Steps to Starting a Seed Library,” Public Libraries, Jul/Aug 2014, p. 24
Find these sources in ProQuest Central and ProQuest Ebook Central.