They say, “out with the old and in with the new,” but not everything “old” necessarily needs to go out. In a world full of creative innovators, more and more of these old items are getting lavish attention with a fresh makeover and being repurposed beyond our wildest dreams.

Such is the case for the antique cabinet at the Everett Public Library that used to be full of cards to help patrons find books in the library. Recently, the card catalog’s miniature drawers have found a new purpose as the Un-Bee-Leaf-Able Seed Library, acting as a home for dozens of free seed packets for library goers to “check out” and plant in their gardens.

The Invention of the Un-Bee-Leaf-Able Seed Library

Everett Public Library
What was once an old card catalog for checking out books has been repurposed for checking out seeds! Photo courtesy: Everett Public Library

A small team of dedicated librarians who are passionate about gardening and wanted to create local, accessible resources for those who were interested in growing food and native plants came up with the wonderful idea of a seed library.

“Many libraries across the country have seed libraries, and we thought it would be a great resource for the Everett community,” shared Naomi Clegg, the adult services librarian at the library who is responsible for adult programming, library marketing and outreach, and reference.

Like the seed libraries before it, the Un-Bee-Leaf-Able Seed Library in Everett aims to encourage a community culture of embracing biodiversity and sustainability through cultivating food and flowers, harvesting and preserving food in local gardens, and ultimately seed sharing.

“There are many barriers to access for people who want to grow their own food and plants,” stated Noami. “If the library can provide seeds for free, information about gardening, and resources to connect local gardeners with each other, we play a key role in reducing those barriers and encouraging healthful eating, community building, and sustainability.”

The team quickly got to work to reinvent the vintage card catalog currently found on the main library’s top floor. Multiple green thumbs on the team helped with the creative process, and already the library had worked with local gardeners and gardening organizations in the past, such as hosting programs from Farmer Frog with Zsofia Pasztor.

Launching of the Seed Library

Everett Public Library
In the summer of 2022, the library hosted a short series of children’s gardening programs in which children planted various crops on the library balcony. Photo courtesy: Everett Public Library

On September 6, 2022, the library debuted the Un-Bee-Leaf-Able Seed Library on its Facebook page, and the community response was more than they ever could have imagined.

“Our first social media post about the seed library launch went viral,” shared Aarene Storms, the newest addition to the Youth Services Department at the library. “It was our most commented-on and shared post of the year.”

It was quickly evident that the community was thrilled about the seed library. Once its opening was announced, the library received multiple donations of seed packets to keep the catalog fully stocked, including contributions from local gardeners like Bayside Community Garden and out-of-state companies and individuals who wanted to show their support.

“Special thanks to our local business donors, including Deep Harvest Seeds, Everett Co-Op Supply, and Osborne Quality Seeds, who provided large donations that kept the seed library stocked,” expressed Aarene.

How the Un-Bee-Leaf-Able Seed Library Works

Everett Public Library
The seed library is housed in a vintage card catalog, currently located on the top floor of the main library. Photo courtesy: Everett Public Library

Since its September opening, the library has checked out 377 free seed packets to patrons looking to explore the gardening world. The library has made it super easy for those interested in checking out seed packets. All you have to do is visit the Main Library at 2702 Hoyt Avenue. You don’t even need a library card to “check out” seeds, and all seed packets are free, meaning everyone in the community can participate.

The library has put in a few rules for the seed giveaway, but only in the interest of sharing. Each person is allowed to check out five seed packets per calendar year. They only ask that you take as many seeds as you can reasonably row and limit your selections to one package per seed type.

Those who check out seeds are encouraged to save seeds from the plants they grow and donate or “check-in” saved and leftover seeds to the library at the end of the growing season. This can ensure that the growing cycle continues and help the library keep the seed library well stocked for others interested in checking out seeds.

“We also accept donations of unused seeds,” added Aarene. “We want this to be an easy way to get seeds into the hands of community members.”

Growing with the Seed Library

The library is excited to see the seed library grow and see what its community members will grow from it. “We hope to expand the seed library to include the Evergreen Branch in South Everett soon,” shared Naomi.

Everett Public Library
The library hopes to educate people on growing native plants as well as those that are cultural staples in the Snohomish community. Photo courtesy: Everett Public Library

Since its opening, the seed library has already been a catalyst for the Everett Public Library to allow them to provide more gardening-related programming in a coordinated way that excites everyone. They’ve already developed a partnership with the WSU Master Gardeners and created planter gardens at the library for their own gardening programs.

For the 2023 year, the library intends to focus on expanding outreach, increasing awareness, and getting more hands in the ground while making sure the seed library also grows at a sustainable pace and remains stocked with plenty of seeds.

The library also hopes to host more food-growing/harvesting/preserving programs for adults and children and would like to explore providing more seeds and resources for the many unique cultural populations in the Snohomish area. Examples include seeds for traditional First People’s foods and native plants, resources for growing cultural staples such as Korean radish or Ukrainian beets and cabbage in the Western Washington climate, and gardening classes in Spanish so that everybody has a chance to learn about plants.

“Ultimately, we want people who have questions about seeds and gardens to think, ‘I’ll ask my question at the library!'” shared Naomi. “There’s definite community enthusiasm for the seed library, and many people have told us how much they appreciate the seed library and how excited they are that we have one now,” shared Aarene.

For more information about the Un-Bee-Leaf-Able Seed Library, potential green thumbs can visit the seed library’s page and learn all about the current seeds available, as well as how to “check out” or “check-in” seeds. They’re equally excited to see you bloom with them as you master your own gardening skills!

Follow Everett Public Library on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for up-to-date news and information for all your library and seed library needs.

Everett Public Library
2702 Hoyt Avenue, Everett

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