Starting a Seed Library

Follow these easy steps to begin a seed library that promotes community building and healthier living!

| August 2016

  • Card Catalog
    An old card catalog is the perfect place to store seeds and is easily attainable if your seed library is partnered with the public library in your community.
    Photo courtesy New Society Publishers
  • Checkout Materials
    A seed library is a tool that promotes community building by arming community members with the tools they need to grow their own food and more. Many seed libraries partner with public libraries where they can take advantage of old card catalogs and have a central location in the community.
    Photo courtesy New Society Publishers
  • Seed Libraries
    "Seed Libraries" by Cindy Conner is the ultimate resource for seeds and starting a seed library. Once a seed library has been started, members replenish the seeds so the library can last for years to come.
    Cover courtesy New Society Publishers

  • Card Catalog
  • Checkout Materials
  • Seed Libraries

The mission statement of Seed Libraries (New Society Publishers, 2014) by Cindy Conner is to introduce a movement that keeps seeds in the hands of the people while revitalizing public libraries and communities. Seed libraries preserve and protect the genetic diversity of a harvest by keeping the seeds in the community. The members of the seed library will bring their own seeds back to the library to share with the rest of the members.   

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Seed Libraries

The first thing I suggest doing to get your seed library going is to involve others. Talk to other people and give them information to read or sources to look into. Often all it takes is a magazine article or a news broadcast to spark somebody’s interest. If your endeavor is a project of a Transition or Permaculture group, you may already have people prepared to move forward with you. If you are a librarian in a public library, help from beyond the library would benefit you greatly. If you are not a librarian and intend for your seed library to be located in a public library, now is the time to bring one on board.

Seed libraries could have a committee to support the project. Other names for this group might be team or advisory board — whichever suits you the best. Not all committee members will be the ones to source seed or physically do anything, but they will be the ones who will get the word out to others who need to know. Also, they may be the ones tied to funding. You might find people for your committee already involved in food and nutrition endeavors or community gardens. It is good to have people in the mainstream as well as creative thinkers on your committees; they may approach projects with different views that can be helpful. Someone with an art talent who is willing to share their skills is a plus to have in your group, as well as someone with computer and social media skills.

A representative from your county Master Gardener program can be your link to acquiring volunteers when you need seeds sorted, tested, or packed. The same goes for having a representative from Scouts, 4-H, and any other local organization with a group of potential volunteers. A representative from your local farmers market could be your link to people who are already saving seeds. Religious groups with a penchant for service may like to be involved. Even if you don’t establish a formal committee, a gathering of people such as this in your community early on, to let them know of your intentions, would be a step in the right direction.

Mission Statement and Name

You will need a mission statement. This will be the guide for all the actions that follow and serve to let others outside your circle know what you are about. From the beginning, decide if your main goal is to distribute seeds only or to distribute seeds and have the recipients save what they’ve grown and donate them back. If the latter is the case (which it usually is), you will need to have an education component to your mission. Although many people are gardeners, few may have saved seed before in a way that would be beneficial for your library. If you are only concerned with distributing seeds, you will need to plan for a continual source of seeds. Seed companies have programs to help seed libraries get started, but I can’t imagine they would be willing to send you seeds every year.


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