A Growing Number of Public Libraries Are Now Offering Seeds

Check out two novels, a biography and a dozen plants

Books aren't the only thing you can check out from the library.
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Historically, libraries have been an excellent place to check out books and do research. That’s something that they’ve always been used for, and it’s something that they’re great at. But in recent years, a growing number of libraries have built on that definition and broadened the scope of what a library can be. Libraries are a place where people who might not have access otherwise can get on the internet, for instance. More broadly, they’re increasingly seen as a way to increase a sense of community in the places they serve.

That can take many forms, which includes the range of things that one can check out on a visit to the public library. And if you’re in the mood to do some gardening, you might be in luck — a growing number of public libraries are expanding out into the realm of seeds.

A recent article by Bridget Shirvell at Eater on this practice zeroes in on one of the ways that libraries giving out seeds is so important — it’s a way to address food insecurity within a community. Among those Shirvell spoke with for the article is Jenny Rockwell of the Oakland Public Library, who pointed out that the American Library Association had emphasized sustainability as a goal for librarians.

“Supporting a relationship with nature through gardening and stewarding seeds supports that intention,” Rockwell said.

The Eater article cites a Modern Farmer article pointing to seed libraries as something that have existed for a decade, at least — and it’s a phenomenon that’s not just confined to the United States. Community seed libraries have also popped up in Australia, for instance.

Library patrons seem to be embracing this new feature. A 2018 Atlas Obscura article on seeds at public libraries noted that the Phoenix Public Library “distributes an average of 1,000 seed packets per month across nine of its 17 branches.” If this can lead to an upswing of community gardening and healthier eating, that sounds like a net positive for all involved.

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