Library hopes to plant seeds of community with new program

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Jan 09, 2014
Courtesy of: Camden Public Library Camden Public Library staffer Sarah Duggan displays seeds from the library's new seed library.

Camden — When Camden Public Library patrons plan their gardens this spring, they can turn to the library for books, helpful programs – and seeds.

Library Executive Director Nikki Maounis said the idea for the new seed library came from a news story she saw on television, coupled with talking to local people. She said the programs fits well into the library's mission.

“We're all about building collections of different kinds. … We look at sharing those collections as a way to build community.”

Maounis said the library works hard to help people in the community maintain connections, and the seed library program is part of that. Not only will the library “lend” seeds to patrons to plant in their gardens, it also asks those who take them to bring back a sample of seeds from what they grow to share with others.

To get the seed library started, Maounis did some online research and attended a web-based workshop. The library also worked with the Heirloom Garden of Maine in Montville and with Neil Lash, head of the Heirloom Seed Project at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro. Unlike those organizations, though, the seed library focuses not on preserving seeds but on disseminating them.

Maounis said the library is also working with Merryspring Nature Center, and hopes to get seeds from Camden Garden Club members and others.

Penney Read, the library's director of development and communication, was also involved in the seed library project. She looked for vegetables and flowers whose seeds would be easy to collect, so patrons could return some to the library. Some examples would be beans, peas, melons and sunflowers. She said the library has dozens of varieties of seeds, and she will probably reduce that number as she discovers which ones are most popular.

Read got most of the seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, an Iowa-based nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. She also received donations of seeds from Pine Tree Garden Seeds in New Gloucester and the Green Thumb in Rockport. She said the seeds in the seed library include vegetables, flowers and herbs.

It is necessary to have a library card in order to use the seed library, Maounis said, and patrons will receive emails asking them to share information on how their seeds are growing. At the end of the growing season, there will be a community dinner where growers can meet and share the fruits of their labors.

The library will provide basic information on how to start the seeds and how to save seeds from the plants they grow. For more information, seed library participants are encouraged to check out books from the library or attend one of more than a dozen programs planned on the theme “Green Growing January.”

Among the offerings will be a Jan. 9 talk by Lash on the Medomak Valley Heirloom Seed Project to introduce the seed library.

Read said the new program is on the leading edge – there are not many seed libraries in the United States yet. She hopes that the seed library will be a way for people in the area to share seeds in a more local and personal way than they could through a national seed bank.

Maounis said the seed library is just the latest manifestation of the library's mission to “bring people together to read, connect and discover.”

For more information about the "Green Growing January" programs, call the library at 236-3440 or visit www.librarycamden.org.

Ed. note: An earlier version of this story was corrected to identify library staffer Sarah Duggan as the person in the photo.

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Sarah Reynolds
Sarah E. Reynolds is copy editor for the Courier Gazette and Camden Herald.
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Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, ride her ATV and play word games.

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