Seed Sharing: Coming to a Library Near You!

Seed album. Photo: Mathieu Hodgson.

Recently I was looking through my seed album, to see what seeds I already had in my possession in planning for this summer’s vegetable garden. I quickly realized that I had too many seeds and that I’d never be able to use them all. Moreover, since seeds have expiration dates, they’re not eternal. So, if I don’t put them in the ground soon, I’ll have to throw them away. This makes me very angry because I know the potential for happiness contained in these little seeds. One of the problems of buying seeds is the quantity that a small bag can contain. Each contains dozens if not hundreds per envelope! This is too much for my small urban container garden.

Putting an ad on social media to offer my extra seeds seemed like an option, but I’m too lazy to coordinate all the messages I’d get and the many appointments that would follow. If only there was a place to save seeds collectively so we could all share them without wasting any! Well, like many of our good ideas, all we have to do is search the web to find out that someone has already thought of it! Discover the wonderful world of seed libraries.

A shelf containing seeds used in a Montreal public library. Photo: Gabriel ebsi.

What Is a Seed Library?

It’s an institution that “lends” or shares seeds, and seeds libraries are often found in regular book libraries. It’s different from a seed bank, which is a place that saves seeds for the long term to preserve genetic diversity. Instead, seed libraries share seeds with the public, who can then propagate and save them.

Seed libraries operate under several models. Some purchase seeds to share with their community. Others lend seeds to their members, gardeners or farmers. They’ll grow those plants to produce other seeds that will in turn be shared with others. Sometimes the public is invited to share their seeds with a seed library to create a seed collection.

Some also offer introductory gardening activities so that you can learn what to do with all those seeds.

History of Seed Libraries

The Bay Area Seed Interchange Library at the Berkeley Ecology Center in California, established in 1999, is believed to be the first such center. In 2004, the first seed library within an existing library was located in Gardiner, New York. In Quebec, the Atwater Public Library in Westmount would have been the first in 2015, but there are now libraries across the province and Canada, with new ones being discovered every year. Don’t worry, there are also some in Europe and around the world. Just do a web search to find some in your area, or maybe your local library would like to open one.

As for me, since each seed library has different procedures for donations, I contacted the one closest to us, the Le Prévost Library in Montreal, and they invited me to drop off my seeds at the library’s reception desk. I was told that the borough of Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension in Montreal will have two more seed libraries this year.

Photo: david silver.

With the opening of new seed libraries every year around the world, there is no excuse to waste seeds! It also allows us to save some money, especially when we only have a small garden like mine and we want to try as many varieties as possible. Well, I’m off to donate my seeds now. I will miss you little ones, but I know you will be happier and more useful at someone else’s house. And in the meantime, I’ll take a look at the seeds that the library has. Who knows, I might make some discoveries!


Mathieu manages the and websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

6 comments on “Seed Sharing: Coming to a Library Near You!

  1. Amy Roberts

    I’m definitely going to check with my local library to see if they have a seed area or if they would like to start one. Thank you ?

  2. This might have been a better idea prior to social networking, although back then, we were more diligent about sharing seed regardless. I tend to hoard my Canna seed, as if I will eventually do something with ALL of it. Fortunately, it is viable for a very long time, so people do not mind taking seed after the first year. Amaryllis belladonna is the opposite, since it must get sown right away. I am pleased that it is as popular as it is, although, there could eventually be too much of it in the neighborhood.

  3. Christine Lemieux

    Wonderful! I will check for one here!

  4. Wonderful idea. I go through my seed collection every year and always have to throw out excess seeds. Better to be able to find new homes while they are still viable.

  5. An excellent idea. And I’m glad to say our local library has joined the movement! Seed sowing is such a marvellous endeavour and seed libraries will help encourage more gardeners. Thanks for another great article.

  6. That is so cool! I never would have thought a library would have seeds. One of those little packets will make someone very happy, when they see it grow into a beautiful plant.

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