EXCHANGE: Library's card catalogs hold seeds

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NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — Advancing technology has virtually eliminated the need for card catalogs and left libraries wondering what to do with their once widely used filing systems.

For some, including Normal Public Library, card catalogs have found a new purpose: They now hold packets of vegetable, fruit and flower seeds available free of charge to patrons.

"They don't have to check them out with their library card, they just fill out a form and return it to the desk," said Meghan Rogers, library marketing manager.

The idea for the new use came from John Fischer, the library's manager of adult services and circulation, who read about it in professional journals.

"We were looking at our card catalogs and wondering what to use them for. Other libraries are doing it and one caught my attention in Richmond, Calif.," he said. "They had what I thought was a simple approach."

To get the project off the ground Fischer searched for a partner in the effort and found Bill Davison, a small farms and the local food system educator at the University of Illinois Extension office in McLean County.

Davison will provide an overview of the idea, give information on what can be planted now and provide free garlic starters during a workshop Thursday at the library.

"In the spring, we will have a much larger event," he said.

Initially Davison is focusing on the "super easy" things to plant and harvest for seeds, including tomatoes, beans, some herbs, lettuce and peas.

He hopes to expand over time to such things as perennial onions and maybe fruit trees, he said.

Davison also is working with a master naturalist group so that prairie remnants will be available at the seed library.

"My hope is to get this up and running ... then replicate it in Bloomington," he said. Eureka Library also has expressed an interest.

"Ideally, we'll have a whole network of these," Davison said.

While residents will be able to share their seeds with the seed library, Fischer said packets of seeds should be clearly marked showing where the seeds came from — a store, a seed catalog or perhaps a relative.

"If we know their source, we can plan on what to expect from the pack," he said.

Heirloom seeds provide vegetables with better flavor and texture, Davison said.

Fischer said the seed library and the workshop help build "a sense of community" — gathering people who have a mutual interest. In addition, he said, it helps people reconnect with their food sources.

"When we control seeds, we control a lot," said Davison, adding current industry practices have resulted in the loss of 90 percent of genetic diversity. "This is community-building; people can take back control of seeds." Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph


Information from: The Pantagraph,

This is an Illinois Exchange story shared by The (Bloomington) Pantagraph.

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