The seed libraries sprouting up across the US

Could the Prince Edward County Libraries replicate this initiative?

San Diego’s Ocean Beach library is one of hundreds in the US where members can take home seeds as well as books. Could the community project help protect local plant diversity?

Librarian and horticulturalist Destiny Rivera with her seed library at the San Diego Ocean Beach Public Library

At first sight San Diego’s Ocean Beach branch is much like any other public library: people browse the shelves, sit at tables reading newspapers and use free computers. But perched on top of the reference desk are packets of seeds ready, just like books, to be checked out.

Stored in a salvaged card catalogue, dozens of seed varieties are alphabetically indexed according to their common name, along with details about their source. Since spring 2019, library visitors have been encouraged to take packets of seeds home with them to plant.

The hope is that at least some of the 150 seed library members will come back in the fall with harvested seed samples and tales to tell. Much like public libraries, the seed library is about sharing and building community.

That’s why the two seemed like a natural fit to the project creator Destiny Rivera, a soft-spoken library assistant and hobby horticulturist, who inherited her green thumb from her father when growing up in Hawaii.

Rivera’s project is one of the latest of over 500 seed libraries that have opened in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, since a group of Californian social justice and food advocates launched the Seed Library Network in 2011. Volunteers of the project posted online guidelines and resources to help others set up their own seed libraries.

Ocean Beach Seed Library The seed library aims to educate the public on plants unique to the area

“People are coming forward to tell us that they’ve been saving seeds in their garage for years,” said Rivera, referring to the contributions made by library users to the seed collection. The Ocean Beach library also received seed donations from community members to launch the endeavor.

Promoting food diversity

The Seed Library Network aims to educate the public about the unique plants and soil types in their region – be it mountainous, coastal, desert, rural or urban. In order to meet the needs of the communities they serve, each library is a little different.

In Ocean Beach, Rivera saw the seed project as a way to add yet another facet to the seaside town’s thriving and open-ended food scene, which includes a farmers’ market, community gardens, and a food co-operative.

The library has also partnered with experienced gardeners in San Diego County to lead a series of workshops on seed saving and gardening techniques designed for people of all skill levels and abilities. MORE

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