Seed Libraries

Seed Library in Duluth, Minnesota

The Skagit Seed Library is up and running from the Mount Vernon library! The folks there have been hard at work developing their 2021 virtual programming with TV10. Click here to request seeds or watch the 5 part video series on Seed Starting Basics. Seasonal packs of seeds are available on request for curbside pickup at the library. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, they will not be hosting in-person classes and instead offering this safe and simple path into the world of seed saving, seed sovereignty, and food security!

We at the Salish Seed Guild are envisioning a Seed Library within the Whatcom County Library System that can serve our local community in an equitable, accessible manner. The inclusion of seed-saving workshops and educational materials will empower and motivate new seed savers to contribute high-quality seeds back to the seed library.

San Jose Seed Library

All about Seed Libraries, from Wikipedia

A seed library is an institution that lends or shares seed. It is distinguished from seed bank in that the main purpose is not to store or hold germplasm or seeds against possible destruction, but to disseminate them to the public which preserves the shared plant varieties through propagation and further sharing of seed.

Seed libraries usually maintain their collections through donations from members but may also operate as pure charity operations intent on serving gardeners and farmers. A common attribute of many seed libraries is to preserve agricultural biodiversity by focusing on rare, local, and heirloom seed varieties. 

Seed libraries use varied methods for sharing seeds, primarily by:

  • Seed swaps, otherwise known as seed exchanges, in which library members or the public meet and exchange seeds
  • Seed “lending,” in which people check out seed from the library’s collection, grow them, save the seed, and return seed from the propagated plants to the library.

Seed libraries may function as programs of public libraries, such as the programs of the Richmond Public Library in California (the “Richmond Grows” program is the “unofficial spiritual center of the public library seed library movement”) and the New Port Richey Public Library (Florida). Seed library initiatives in public libraries garner patron participation as a novelty supplement to book check-outs. Seed packets are usually located next to everyday circulated items like books, audiobooks, CDs, and DVDs. Seed libraries in public libraries have been successful because they catch patron hobby curiosities. Public libraries are an appropriate space for seed libraries because they make seeds and plants available to everyone.

They are also located in college libraries, such as Hampshire College‘s seed library; museums, such as the Hull-House Heirloom Seed Library, a program of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum or as membership-based online program like the Hudson Valley Seed Library. Some have developed as programs of botanical gardens, such as that of the VanDusen Botanical Garden, or from gardening associations and research institutes, such as the Heritage Seed Library of Garden Organic. Other seed libraries have evolved from community sustainability or resilience efforts, such as the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL) (the United States’ oldest seed library, which developed from the Berkeley, California Ecology Center); and still others from the Slow Food movement, such as Grow Gainesville‘s seed program. 

While “lending” is straightforward, “returning” or re-depositing seeds presents a challenge, since the new seeds are not necessarily well-described, and may be inadvertent hybrids. Seed libraries complement the preservationist activities of seed banks, by collecting local and heirloom varieties that might otherwise be lost, and by collecting new local varieties. In theory, lending and returning seed libraries will also promote local agriculture over time, by growing collections of seeds locally adapted to the region. 

Blount County Public Library, Tennessee