Check Out Seeds Along with Library Books
Next time you loan a book from your public library, consider checking out some seeds, too. Yes, you read that right. More than two-dozen libraries across the country, including 15 in California, now let patrons borrow DIY plants along with copies of The Great Gatsby and Moby Dick. As NPR’s The Salt reported last week, this new offering could be a way to entice more people into the brick-and-mortar book buildings. Plus, it fosters community and makes accessible all different types of seeds.
The borrowing process varies from locale to locale, but in general, goes something like this: A reader-gardener picks from a plethora of plants—from the simplest to the most advanced—and checks them out. At the Fairfield (CT) Woods Branch Library, for instance, borrowing vegetable, herb, and flower seeds simply requires registering and watching a short orientation video. At the César E. Chávez branch of the Oakland Public Library, “anyone is welcome to come in and check out seeds,” the website reads. “No library card is needed. Just sign out for them.”
At season’s end, growers ideally return to the library seeds from their harvest—but it’s not required. There’s rarely a due date and no penalties exist for those who don’t fulfill their end of the bargain. “The more seeds in the library, the more members of our community can experience the joys of growing their own food,” notes Tucson’s Seed Library of Pima County Public Library. However, “we understand that seed saving is new to many of our community members.”
That’s also why the Pima Seed Library groups its seeds by how difficult they are to save (not to plant or grow). Artichoke and lentil fall into the easy category; broccoli and cucumbers are advanced. The library describes its offerings as “edible, decorative, and herb seed varieties.” The Pittsburgh (PA) Seed and Story Library went a step further: In addition to the greens check out, the group is creating an oral history (in video form) of the city’s gardening past, “told by those who grew up around gardens in Pittsburgh,” according to the website.
Clearly, the library-as-seed-bank idea is still evolving, but it sounds like there’s something for everyone. Still need convincing? Several of the programs offer tutorials and classes for beginners. So go ahead, renew that library card: Your inner bookworm and your green thumb will thank you.!--/end tags-->