Seeds To Loan

On January 28, the Pima County Public Library is doing something completely innovative for a library.

They are “loaning” out seeds.

To plant.

The idea is that you will be able to look on their searchable database for plants (by common names, varietal names, or scientific taxa) and you will be able to “borrow” seeds of a particular garden plant.

There will be five physical collections of open-pollinated, heirloom seeds that will reside at the Main, Flowing Wells, Himmel, Quincie Douglas, and the town of Ajo branches. Library patrons will borrow seeds to grow and enjoy. Later in the season, they will scope out the healthiest, tastiest plants and allow them to go to seed or in the case of things like tomatoes, or eggplants, they’ll save some seed from the fruit itself. They’ll keep a portion for themselves and return at least twice as much as they borrowed back to the seed library.

Seeds will be arranged in categories: easy, medium and difficult (in terms of seed saving). The hope of the library is that most seed saving “newbies” will save seed from plants that are designated “easy”. The seeds that we will have in the “easy” category are self-pollinating and less susceptible to pollination from other wind or bee-pollinated plants. People who have greater experience with gardening and seed saving will know about caging or bagging their plants in order to prevent cross-pollination. But this will be a real learning process for most and the library expects that people will just try their best at coming through in their part of the bargain.

Justine Hernandez of Pima County Public Library says, “If we need to write to seed companies again next year for donations to boost our collection, then that’s what we’ll do. We really envision the seed library as an opportunity to have conversations about things like, GMOs, Biodiversity, Sustainability, and to really begin to engender more of a sense of community as we go on this gardening journey together.”

Native Seed/SEARCH has been supportive from the beginning of this project–donating seeds and mentoring the library through this process. The UA Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners have also been very generous and have offered to take telephone calls for borrowers gardening woes. They have also received tremendous support from the Community Food Bank. Melissa Mundt, their home gardening coordinator has been helping the library training staff (basic gardening intros) and sharing many of their gardening resources.

Of course, anyone who has questions can also come to this blog for answers.

This is an experimental project with a lot of potential. It is really nice to see that instead of letting challenges get in their way, the library is going ahead with the project and planning on adjusting to the challenges that will inevitably come ahead.

I am excited to see what sorts of seed they will carry and I am very proud that our public library in Pima County is one of the few in the country that has ventured on such a project. Good job Tucson!


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