New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Somers Seed Lending Library

Valerie Herman & Tara Ferretti

Somers Seed Lending Library is a free community heirloom seed lending project, demonstrating that libraries check out more than books. The idea is simple. Growers get seeds from the seed catalog in the library, and record what seeds they 'borrow'. They then grow their plants, and at the end of the growing season, harvest seeds from those plants and return them to the Seed Library for people to borrow during the next growing season.
After contacting other libraries who have implemented a seed lending program, we thought it was something we could do in our library. The project was proposed to the director and Friends Group.

We decided to purchase seeds for plants that would grow well in our region of the country. The Friends funded the initial purchase of seeds, and funded a lecture by a Master Gardener. A librarian’s husband built the actual seed cabinet. We developed handouts for people to bring home and refer to - for best practices in growing heirloom flowers and vegetables, as well as saving seeds.

Much publicity was done - online (social media), email blasts, and in the newspapers.

Challenges to creating and maintaining the collection

* Deciding what varieties to offer (and levels of difficulty in growing those seeds)
* Deciding how much to let people borrow. Our first 'borrower' took seeds for an entire garden. We want people to be able to try growing heirloom vegetables and decided to limit people taking enough seeds for 5-6 plants per seed variety.
* It was quite time consuming to formulate the borrowing policies such as how many seeds a person could take, how we wanted seeds returned to the library, and what documentation we wanted to maintain.

Our first year was very successful. We got a lot of positive feedback from patrons. Most were surprised that a library would be involved in such an unusual project. Our goal has always been to provide our patrons with new, and exciting ways to use the library.