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Libraries lend books, movies and ... seeds?

Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Beginning April 22, when you go to the Sycamore and DeKalb libraries, you can check out more than the latest Tom Clancy novel.

DeKalb County Community Gardens is establishing a seed lending library at both libraries. DCCG Director Dan Kenney, who came up with the idea with Becky Hodson, said there are only 60 known seed libraries in the country. These two may be the first in Illinois.

Heath Johnson of the DCCG said the public will be allowed to check out seeds, then take them home and plant them in their own gardens. They can use the produce however they want, either for themselves or to donate. At harvest time, Johnson said growers are asked to save some seeds and return them to the library to be stored until the next year.

“Books and seeds need the same kind of environment,” he said.

Johnson said the program is intended to promote healthy eating and to produce better seeds. As the seeds are planted over and over in the same area, over several generations the plants adapt to the environment, producing better crops.

Kenney said the DCCG hopes to create a library of heirloom seeds.

“All seeds aren’t created equal,” he said. “We ask that they bring back as many seeds as they take.”

People will be allowed to check out one packet containing open pollinated seeds from each of 10 different vegetables – radishes, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, green peppers, pumpkins, spinach, corn, green beans and peas.

In the Sycamore library, the packets will be stored by the circulation desk; at the DeKalb library, a seed organizer will be just to the right of the main entrance. At both, patrons pick out the packets they want, then register by signing their name and the type and quantity of seeds checked out. Other information is optional.

“It’s not like checking out other items,” grower Nathan Dettman said.

Hodson said you don’t need a library card to check out seeds from either library.

“There are no late fees or fines if your garden fails,” she added.

To coincide with the launch of the seed library, Jesse Butz, head of adult and information services, said the Sycamore library will plant its own on-site garden on April 12.

“It’s going to be a fun project,” he said.

Last week, volunteers sorted and packaged seeds at a seed-sorting potluck at the Sycamore library. A similar event will be held from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, at the DeKalb library. Volunteers are asked to bring a dish to pass.

Kenney said the DCCG is also planning workshops at the libraries on basic gardening tips and how to save seeds. Workshops are scheduled at 6:30 p.m. April 29 and 10 a.m. May 3 at the DeKalb library; Sycamore dates have not yet been set.

“It’s a pilot program, so its continuance will depend on the success of its first year,” said Edith Craig, communications director at the DeKalb library. “Even if you’ve never planted a garden before, this is the perfect opportunity for somebody to start.”

If the program is successful, Kenney said, the Genoa Public Library may open a seed library next year.

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