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 dozens of libraries have opened! In September 2011, a group of us gathered at the National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, California to create Seed Libraries, an umbrella organization to support existing and emerging seed libraries. Below is the basics of how to create a library, but you may also want to check out SeedLibraries.org. We've uploaded our resources there as well as information from other seed libraries. The resources can be found at the tab called "Start-up Toolkit" on the Seed Libraries site. There is also a "Seed Library Toolkit" document, which is a more detailed explanation of pros and cons of different check out and organizational systems among the downloads. Below is how we at Richmond Grows started and the resources we use. (Mark your calendar for September 11, 2013 from 4-6pm for the 3rd Annual Seed Libraries Summit at the National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, CA. Check in the SLOLA, Seed Library of Los Angelas table for exact location.) Please "Like" Seed Libraries on Facebook.
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:
Check to see if there are sister libraries located near you or in a similar bioregion. They may have suggestions or seed saving and library material adapted to your situation.
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:
cabinet(s) for seeds
seeds - write to seed companies and explain your project and the community that you will be serving; be sure to include the seed saving aspect in your letter so that you don't get hybrid seeds
labels for the outside of the drawers - download labels below
labels for dividers (in drawers) - download labels below
dividers for different types of seeds - we decided to put the labels for different types of seeds onto something sturdy and had 1/4 in. wooden dividers made that are 5 3/8 x 3 3/8 in.; you'll need around 50 just for the veggies/fruits
wooden dividers for the drawer - drawers are much wider than seed packets; having dividers creating rows of seeds will keep it more organized
donated envelops for borrowing seeds - do not get envelopes with open windows; check local printers for discards; legal sized envelopes, sealed with edged tapped shut, then cut in half are a great size for people returning seeds to the library
a PC desktop computer - for members to check out and donate/return seeds; there is open source seed databasethat you can download; the database works best on a PC - if you have questions about the database, feel free to contact us at RichmondGrows@gmail.com
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.)
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:
Seed Lending Library sign
New to seed saving poster- We took the paper to a copy store and had it enlarged to 2x3 ft. Note: These recommendations are for the SF Bay Area.
Signs for the computer - since our seed lending library is in the public library and some patrons come to the public library to use the computer, we chose not to have our computer Internet connected. We wanted to avoid people from browsing on it. We had a few signs "This computer is for Seed Lending Library members.", "This computer is NOT connected to the Internet." and a third sign reminding people how to log-on and asking them to email us from another computer if they experience any difficulties with the program.
How to use the library poster - We enlarged this to 2x3 feet and posted it on the back of used foam core and put it on a home-made easel.
Step 5: Create Your Brochures 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 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.
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.
Post orientation invitations on local listserves; see orientation section below
Have a grand opening with some local officials and press
Post on social media
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.