Apr 15th, 2019

Check Out the Seed Library

Woman using the Ginter Seed library catalog

A Seed Library member searches for pollinator-friendly plants for her home garden.

Are you interested in growing a garden, but intimidated about getting started? Do you want to explore our regional food history from the ground up? Or maybe you just want to test out some interesting seeds without spending much?

As National Library Week winds to a close, we’re delighted to announce that you’re in luck, and your journey starts—perhaps unexpectedly—in the Lora Robins Library. Last month, we launched a Seed Library: a circulating collection of seeds that users can borrow, plant, harvest, save, and—if all goes according to plan—return to the library. Fittingly, this year’s National Library Week theme is “Libraries = Strong Communities.” Seed libraries such as this one can empower community members to grow their own food from seed and cultivate a community of sharing. They also foster sustainable, organic, affordable gardening practices, and promote agricultural diversity and the value of seed saving. They even highlight local history through the lens of food production practices. Whether you think of community strengthening as sharing food with your neighbors, exchanging information, discovering our past, beautifying your neighborhood, or reducing your ecological footprint (or some combination thereof), there’s something for you in the Seed Library!

Our Seed Library is comprised of a repurposed  (very cool, very retro) card catalog, filled with over 400 varieties of vegetable, flower, and herb seeds, arranged by family within numbered drawers. It’s a free program, included with regular Garden admission. To participate, you simply visit the library, complete a registration form, document the seeds that you are “borrowing,” fill out your seed information on our custom seed packets, and fill said packets with a few seeds to take home and plant; the return process is just as straightforward. And if you’re new to gardening or seed saving, it just so happens that the Robins Library is filled to brimming with information on those two subjects (and much more!).

Want to learn more? You’re in luck! On May 18, 2019, we will celebrate the Seed Library with our day-long Starting from Seed party, complete with workshops, a seed swap, seed library lightning instruction sessions, an exciting speaker, and family-friendly activities in the Children’s Garden.

This project flourished thanks to a number of partners and advisors, to whom we’re so very grateful. Most of the circulating seeds were generously donated by dedicated home gardeners, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Horticulture Department, Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello, Agecroft Hall & Gardens, Seed Savers Exchange, and High Mowing Seeds. Our colleagues at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lenhardt Library and Reynolds Community College provided a wealth of invaluable information, resources, and advice. Thank you to all who contributed, whether seeds or seeds of ideas! We can’t wait to watch this project grow, and we’re excited to share it with all of you.

About Dory Klein

Dory Klein is the librarian at the Lora Robins Library at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. When not answering botanical reference questions, leading storytime, creating research guides, managing library programs and outreach, cataloging, and overhauling the library’s systems, she is probably biking, reading, hiking, or picking cherry tomatoes in her garden. She hopes that all of you will turn to the Robins Library as a place of discovery and inspiration.

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