US: Public libraries increasingly offer seeds

On a shelf just behind the reference desk at the Harmon branch of the Phoenix Public Library, are small pouches of seeds. Like the books and DVDs, they’re available to check out. The library allows visitors to take a few packets of the vegetable and flower seeds home for free just by showing their library card.

“It’s innovative, it’s different, it’s another way for people to interact with the library,” says Lee Franklin, the library’s spokesperson. “It’s been really well received.”

The Phoenix Public Library first put seeds on the shelves at one of its branches in 2014. Franklin says they were immediately in high demand. Now the library distributes an average of 1,000 seed packets per month across nine of its 17 branches. Franklin says the program has proven to be sustainable with minimal costs—around $300-$500 to bring a seed-sharing program to a new branch of the library. And, Franklin says, the organizational tasks of offering seeds fit seamlessly with the library’s existing cataloguing system.

The Phoenix Public Library is not alone. Hundreds of public libraries around the U.S. have adopted similar initiatives to offer free seeds to library-goers. Seed-sharing programs aim to expand access to crops and educate the public, while also protecting scarce agricultural resources.

Read more at Atlas Obscura (Katherine Davis-Young)

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