1 February 2021
Lisle Library District seed library.

In 2014, the Lisle Library District became one of the first public libraries in Illinois to offer a Seed Library to its patrons. The Village of Lisle is home to The Morton Arboretum and PrairieWalk Pond, among other outdoor attractions, and it was in keeping with the Village’s love of outdoor spaces that this project was created.

LLD offers an assortment of seeds, including varieties of beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, herbs, and flowers, and in recent years, the offerings have expanded to include plants that provide nectar and pollen for native birds, butterflies, and bees. These new seeds compliment the Library’s thriving pollinator garden where a variety of pollinator-friendly plants attract birds and insects.

Steps for maintaining the Seed Library are:

  • In early January of each year, we order seeds from companies that actively promote resource sharing, such as Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and the non-profit Seed Savers Exchange, in order to avoid any potential legal issues with patented seeds.
  • The next step is to divide the seeds into small jeweler’s or craft bags - for example, we provide 10 tomato seeds per bag.
  • The small bags are then placed into cataloged, barcoded packets with the name and image of the plant on the front and growing instructions on the back.
  • We store the seed packets in a small cabinet for patrons to browse with drawers labeled, “Vegetables,” “Fruit,” “Flowers,” “Herbs,” and “Pollinators.” Due to Covid-19, we now offer a 3-ring binder with images of the packets for patrons to look through instead of browsing the cabinet.
  • Check out is limited to five seed packets per library card (including reciprocal borrowers) with a due date in six months. We ask that patrons return the barcoded packets to the Library, but there is no penalty if they are not returned.
  • If patrons are successful in harvesting seeds, they may return seeds to us in the packet and we will then add those seeds to the Seed Library.

In support of the Seed Library, we offer a variety of gardening-related programming, including a seed starting program held in early spring to discuss growing seeds inside to be transplanted into a garden or pot when the weather allows. During the growing season, we host monthly programs offered by the Illinois Master Gardeners: University of Illinois Extension on pest management, landscaping, creating preserves, and other gardening-related topics. Finally, in the fall, we host a program on harvesting seeds for donation to the Library or for storage for the next year.

Adult Services Programming Coordinator, Xavier Duran, who facilitated the seed library for several years after taking the reins in 2015, observed that, “There is a fascination, even from adults, with the process and the labor necessary to go from a small seed to a large plant that produces something life-sustaining.” Maintaining the seed library has recently been taken over by Adult Services Paraprofessional, Rochelle Storm, who noted, “I feel like people are becoming more and more aware of the importance of pollinators and the joy of attracting wildlife to one’s yard. In that regard, we may see an increased interest in the pollinator drawer. The other drawers, labeled fruit, vegetables, herbs, and flowers should maintain a steady appeal for gardeners who just like to – literally – enjoy the fruits of their labors.”

The Seed Library and related programs have proved to be very popular, drawing visitors from other communities to LLD, by offering a hands-on activity that provides a healthy and rewarding experience, whether people choose to plant a large outdoor garden or prefer a pot of herbs on the window sill.

Our guest blogger today is Gail Graziani. Gail is the Assistant Director of Adult Services at the Lisle District Library. Gail is also a member of the My Library Is.. Advisory Team.