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Introduction to Seed Libraries

Public libraries are places where everyone is welcome and library services are designed to fit the community’s needs. Recently, seed libraries and related programs have been expanding. This kind of service aims to educate the public about the region´s history and ecology; to expand home-grown food and protect scarce agricultural resources.

According to Phoenix Public Library, the seed program has minimal costs and the organizational tasks fit perfectly within the library’s system.

Seed Libraries

Seed libraries and related programs are growing around the world and they are viewed as an innovative way to interact with the library. The majority make their seeds available and ready to be picked the same way as other materials libraries lend to their visitors. Some libraries require membership to take the seeds home, but in others you can go there, choose the seeds you’d like to plant and take as much as you want for free, or a nominal fee.

The programs related to seeds vary from library to library, some have them available for people to take away, but others rely on the people who borrow the seeds and cultivate them in their own gardens and bring some new ones to the collection after harvesting. In general, there are no requirements for how many seeds or how many of each variety must return, but each library might have their own rules. There are also libraries who depend on volunteer work to grow seeds in a community garden, built to support the seeds programs. They also accept cash donations to help the library stock and grow more seeds. These are the main reasons why this kind of program fits public libraries, it is all about sharing, contributing and building strong relationships within the community.

Libraries don´t always have the same variety of seeds because it depends on the season. This is also a good way to educate communities about the best time to grow specific seeds and about the type of soils existing in the region. By saving seeds as a community, people create local seed stocks which are better adapted to the region’s climate and soils.

It is also very important to control the quality of the seeds, so several libraries, such as Pima County Public Library, offer support to seed gardeners and seed savers throughout the process of growing, harvesting and saving seeds, regardless of their experience level. Toronto Seed Library, the largest initiative in Toronto with 18 library branches through the city, recommends those with little experience in gardening focus on seeds from varieties that are easily saved and don´t require special conditions to maintain quality. They even offer classes aimed to help experienced gardeners create their own garden to grow seeds, ensuring the perpetuation of their seed collection.

Start a Seed Library

Seed Libraries, posted a few steps followed by the ‘Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library’ when it was created:

Step 1: The library needs to figure it out who will help them, it can be volunteer work done by the community they serve, partnership with local gardens and gardeners or even with other near libraries.

Step 2: The chosen space to build this kind of library or program should be a place easily found and used by the public.

Step 3: Minimal costs are required to keep a seed library, but in the beginning the library needs to spend a bit more to acquire the right materials. According to Seed Libraries the following things are needed:

  • Wood cabinet(s) for seeds are recommended, as well as dividers to organize them
  • Seeds
  • Labels for the outside of the drawers and for the dividers
  • 1-2 stamps for checking in and out as well as stamp pads
  • Envelops for borrowing seeds
  • Seed matters seed saving chart: this will help visitors learn how long seeds are generally good for
  • Computer to follow the borrowed seeds, donations, and returns

Step 4: Create a signage for your library/program.

Step 5: Create brochures.

Step 6: Launching the seed library/program.

Step 7: Orientations to the library – if you need some kind of orientation on how to build or maintain the seed library/program you can contact the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Public Library.

Educating the Community

The library will help visitors to understand the specific needs of each type of seed and each type of soil through classes, casual conversations and of course, through books and other materials available. Not only will this program encourage community members to become more connected to the nature and ecology of their region, it will also provide the tools necessary to grow their own healthy and affordable food.

Seed libraries and related programs provide opportunities to discuss timely topics and are also a great way to bring communities together. Sharing knowledge about a subject visitors enjoy builds strong relationships; and by creating a network of seed savers, cultivating locally adapted varieties, allows people to connect with and respond to the climate and environment they inhabit.

We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!

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