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Seed library

New seed-sharing program opens at Oakland Public Library branches

on May 16, 2023

Pam Glassoff wiped a scatter of fresh soil from her hands, basking in the warm afternoon sun in front of the Montclair Branch of the Oakland Public Library. Smiling, she talked about her love of gardening and the excitement of the Earth Day event she was attending.

“I’ve never grown from seed, so this would be a whole new experiment for me.”

Glassoff has been gardening for 25 years, and has a fondness for tomatoes, rhubarb, and asparagus. With the help of volunteers, Glassoff and roughly a dozen other people filled plastic containers with soil and carefully spread different seeds. As per instructions, they made sure to compact the soil tightly. Nearby a large bin of soil and recyclable scoopers were at the ready.

The event last month was the kickoff to Oakland Public Library’s shared seed program. Residents can pick up seeds and gardening resources from more than a dozen library branches, through a program supported in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. 

Seed library
Library users get seeds at the Montclair Branch of the Oakland Public Library. (Samuel Tanner)

The Montclair branch held a workshop to teach people the process of seed-starting. Participants learned about self-reliant gardening practices and backyard food production. After germination, the idea is to recycle the new seeds by bringing them to the library for someone else to plant. The project is part of a five-year library plan to provide educational gardening and seed programs. 

Gardening expert Elizabeth Sommer-Reid, who is working with the program, said that by sharing and recycling seeds free of genetic modification and pesticides, community-based gardeners can cultivate genetic diversity and stronger breeds of food. 

“The idea is that you’re giving power back to the seed, back to the genetics, back to the people who are consuming that food,” Sommer-Reid said. 

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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