Create Your Own Seed Lending Library
Our intention at Richmond Grows is to be a model for sustainability in our community while supporting other communities to create their own seed lending library and seed interchanges (swaps). All of our materials are free and available for non-commercial purposes. Since we opened in May 2010 over 450 seed lending libraries have opened! Have a seed library or interested in starting one? Please take 2-3 minutes to fill in our survey. This will really save us! We spend hours and hours tracking libraries to help keep them informed of new material. It really helps when you take a few minutes to fill in the survey. Thanks!
Join our Seed Libraries Social Network to connect with other libraries and check out Seed Libraries, our network's site to support existing and emerging seed libraries. We also have a downloadable "seed library toolkit" on the website. If you open or intent to, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add you to the Seed Libraries email list so when new resources come out you'll get them. We'll also add you to our Sister Libraries page when you open.
Step 1: Get Your Peeps Together
Who is going to help you?
What are some natural alliances that you can create with other community groups or businesses? Here are a few ideas:
Step 2: Locate Your Space
Get your space. We recommend a well visited community space. Pick a venue that is frequented by the general public. We chose the main branch of the local public library since it is open to the public, widely used by a broad spectrum of citizens and the missions of Richmond Grows and the public library dovetail nicely.
Step 3: Acquire Library Materials
You'll need a sturdy cabinet for the seeds and, of course, seeds. We recommend that you get a wooden cabinet as you are probably going to have to put some dividers in the drawers to organize the seeds into rows. The height of the drawers is important as it should be high enough to accommodate a regular-sized seed packet, but not too high as to waste space. A good height for the drawer is about 6". We have three cabinets: edibles (veggies/fruit/edible flowers), herbs, and ornamentals (non-edible flowers, California natives, and ornamentals, such as gourds). Things you'll need:
Labels for drawers
When you get your drawers for your seeds you will need to clearly label them. The labels serve a dual purpose of helping members find and return seeds easily while educating them about plant families and the difficulty of different families to save seeds.
Our vegetables are labeled by plant families. We recommend that you put easy to save seeds in the upper drawers and difficult ones below. NOTE: All of our labels are for the San Francisco Bay Area. Certain families may be more difficult in your region if you have cold winters. Besides labeling the families in each drawer, and including some common family members, we also recommend that you clearly label the difficulty of the seeds to be saved. We created three categories and these are the labels:
1. Super Easy - recommend using neon green paper
2. Easy - recommend any color besides red paper; we chose aquamarine
3. Difficult- recommend using neon yellow paper
We also added a hand pollination sign to the cucurbit drawers. (Sorry, but this website is not letting us upload things. Email at RichmondGrows@gmail.com if you need it.)
Labels for Outside of Drawers: The drawers for the edibles cabinet are labeled by families and we printed each family with a different color. The colors we chose correspond to the SF Bay Area Planting Guide that was created by B.A.S.I.L., our sister seed library in Berkeley, California.
Labels for inside of drawers: (Remember that our categories of Super Easy, Easy and Difficult reflect seed saving levels based on SF Bay Area climate. Some families, such as the Goosefoot and Parsley families will be difficult if you have cold winters.)
1. Goosefoot Family
2. Gourd Family
3. Grass Family
4. Lily Family
5. Mint Family
6. Mustard Family
7. Nightshade Family
8. Parsley Family
9. Pea Family
10. Sunflower Family
11. Miscellaneous Edibles
We also have numbers on the drawer and an alphabetized list of common edibles so people can easily find a plant. Ex. Arugula - Drawer 9 - Super easy.
Seed Markers- when people check out seeds it's helpful to have "seed markers" (kind of like book markers) available for them to stick in the drawers so they can easily return packets where they found them. We had a number of them made on card stock and used a variety of colors so if several people are using the library simultaneous, such as at an orientation, they can keep track of which spaces are theirs by using only one color of marker.
Step 4: Create Signage for Your Library
Signs you may want to have:
Educating people about seed saving is an essential part of the library. Otherwise, you may get a lot of things that aren't what they claim to be. Every time we do an orientation, we distribute "How to Save Seeds" brochures and refer people to our website for additional resources. Around harvest time, we will also offer some basic seed saving classes.
How to Save Seeds Brochures
For your convenience, we've highlighted words that you will need to switch out to reflect your organization and location.
NOTE: All of our labels are or the San Francisco Bay Area. Certain families may be more difficult in your region if you have cold winters. Contact local seed savers or refer to guides on seed saving for specifics on your area. Seed Savers Forum is also a great place to get expert advice.
Highlighted areas indicate information that you will need to change. This has been done for some - not all of the brochures - so please scan carefully.
How to Save Seeds Brochure- outside, English
How to Save Seeds Brochure- inside, English
How to Save Seeds Brochure - outside, Spanish
How to Save Seeds Brochure- inside, Spanish
How to Use the Library Brochures
How to Use the Library - outside, English
How to Use the Library - inside, English
How to Use the Library - outside, Spanish
How to Use the Library - inside, Spanish
How to Use the Library - inside, Mandarin
How to Use the Library - outside, Mandarin
How to Check Out Seeds
We have a computer that we use with a database for people to check out seeds. If you are interested in using the database, please contact us at RichmondGrows@ gmail.com and we will connect you with the writer of the program. It is an open source (read "free") program that was specifically written for our sister seed library BASIL and Richmond Grows. You'll only need to change the name on the front page. We also have a paper backup for the computer as well as for members that are not comfortable using computers. Here is our paper membership form. We have a binder with A-Z tabs and people take a blank form from the front of the binder and fill it in and file it under the first letter of their last name. We're 100% volunteer and our system is open and self-serve.
Here is the paper membership in Spanish.
Step 6: Launching Your Seed Library
One way to launch your seed lending library is to have a seed swap. See our page (under construction) on how to organize a seed swap.
Step 7: Orientations to the Library
We chose to do orientations so that people would know how to use the library properly as well as understand how they can make the library self-sustaining. Our orientations are an half-hour long and start promptly and end promptly, but many people stay beyond that time to check out seeds and register. The focus of the orientation is what is the library, how the library is organized and how to check out seeds. We felt that returning seeds and discussing seed saving would be too much to take in for the initial orientation. We do pass out our seed saving brochure and strongly emphasis what the "super easy", "easy" and "difficult" signs mean.
Before the orientation we posted sign-ups in the library as well as publicized orientations on different neighborhood council, garden club and other community listserves. We used Eventbrite for our registration. It's a free service.
Since we only have one computer and people often want to check out seeds after the orientation. 10-12 people is about the maximum that we recommend for an orientation if you have only one computer. After about a year, we're reducing the number of in person orientations and relying more on our on-line orientations with having only a few in-person orientations during the beginning of the growing season.
Here is our orientation material. We enlarged each piece to 2x3 ft and then put them on a large flip chart easel. Here is the Spanish version of the orientation. Here's a sample of our promo flyer in Spanish.
FAQs Seed Library Start Up
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions
Help Amend Seed Law