Growing Literacy With Seed Libraries

Although libraries are traditionally the stewards of books, there are some pretty unique items finding homes in the stacks these days. Telescopes and microscopes, T-rex skulls and Arduino kits have all found a corner in our knowledge centers. A surprising (and surprisingly beautiful) new item in these collections are seeds. As with every new acquisition, a library must ask what knowledge and growth will a seed collection provide for the community.

red beans

Christmas” Lima Beans

To start, seed libraries support actual literacy. Readers to Eaters, a small publishing company specializing in children’s books that focus on food and gardening, run programs in schools and libraries throughout the country, showing how reading can support good eating and vice versa. As with any great collection, there is an opportunity for some fantastic programming; story time in sunflower houses while the kids munch on carrots is not only picturesque, but a very real possibility with a seed library (Senechal, 2015).


The Children’s Garden in Brooklyn, New York in August 1976. National Archives and Records Administration.

Teaching people what and how to eat is at the core of a library garden and seed library. Inspiring people to eat better by producing their own food, seed libraries offer to create health literate patrons, ensuring healthier brains to absorb all the rest of the knowledge a library contains. Seed libraries provide patrons with the opportunity to learn, exercise, and eat right all at the same time (Weak, 2014), creating support groups for citizens seeking a healthier lifestyle.

Seed libraries also have the potential to build involved, community literate citizens who grow beautiful cities with flower gardens, spurring “pride of place” in patrons. Seed libraries can also raise awareness of local plant growing knowledge which may be needed to support food production during a shifting climate (Shand, 1997). In addition, the (sometimes costly) resources needed to start a garden are evenly dispersed throughout the library’s patronage, giving each family an opportunity to grow and eat. This creates stable populations while reducing hunger – a step toward greater national security.

This local body of gardening and seed knowledge fits closely with greater scientific principles. Seed libraries are the catalyst for botanical literacy. Understanding plants and their growing conditions fosters a broader understanding of ecology and botany. By becoming familiar with scientific language, patrons will feel less daunted by other scientific principles and will, again, become better citizens by gaining a more well informed concept of the world around them (Uno, 2009).

From standard literacy to botanical literacy, seed libraries inspire kids and adults alike to explore a wide range of topics. Although seed libraries are not a possibility everywhere they definitely have a place in some libraries. So in addition to your maker’s spaces, investigate seed libraries – they will bring a surprising amount of discovery and fun.


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