EMMAUS PUBLIC LIBRARY
Gardens and their fans have long kindled the imaginations of authors and thinkers.
For example, Frances Hodgson Burnett gave readers the classic “The Secret Garden.”
Alice happens upon Mad Hatter, March Hare and the sleepy Dormouse at tea in the garden in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
Fans of cozy mysteries may recall Dolly Bantry, a friend of Agatha Christie’s dowager detective Miss Jane Marple, as an avid gardener. Peter Rabbit finds a nemesis in Mr. McGregor whose goal is to keep rabbits out of his garden. And Mohandes K. Gandhi famously said, “To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”
The Emmaus Public Library is strengthening the connection of good books and good crops by offering seeds for check out from its stacks.
The seeds, including vegetable and flower seeds, are available for check out at the front desk. Library patrons may “borrow” as many as five seed packets with their library cards at no cost.
And the packets need not be returned nor can be deemed overdue.
“Libraries are trying to do other things than just lend books,” Amy Resh, director of the Emmaus Public Library, said in a recent interview.
The seed, pun intended, for the program was planted by Emmaus Mayor Winfield Iobst. Resh was talking with Iobst at a borough council meeting. Iobst spoke positively about events and programs at the library but said he really wasn’t a reader.
Resh saw an opportunity to expand services at the library and asked librarian Maryellen Kanarr to research the idea of a seed library.
“She was a good sport about it,” Resh said.
Kanarr went to work.
First, there were rules to review. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture requires seed libraries to offer exchange programs of either seeds or vegetables. Logistically, a large quantity of seeds was needed to set up a viable catalog. Plus, there was the question of how to check out the seeds.
Card catalogs, stored in the wake of the availability of online catalogs and databases at the library, were re-purposed to hold seed packets, Kanarr said. And fellow EPL staff member Mary Van Duzer, cataloger, developed a barcode for the seeds. Seeds can be searched in the library’s online catalog. Recent seeds for “lending” included: bean, beet, carrot, eggplant, peas, pumpkin, cucumber, sunflower, sweet corn, Swiss chard and watermelon.
On the suggestion of another local agricultural company, Kanarr contacted SeedWay, which has a commercial farm near Vera Cruz.
A delivery of several big white boxes displaying the SeedWay logo soon arrived and the processing of the donation soon followed.
The program started May 1. Basil seed packets were “sold out” by the middle of the month.
Reached by telephone, Dennis Shoop, vegetable seed operations manager for SeedWay, said the company has donated seeds to various groups including missionary and church groups and gardening clubs. The request from the library, however, was a first for the company.
“We like to work with anyone who is going to promote gardening,” Shoop said.
The seeds donated to the library produce plants that are easy to grow and popular with home gardeners, Shoop said.
The seed lending program echoes the summer reading program theme of “Build a Better World.” Visits from a master gardener and beekeeper, a bird and butterfly expert and a vegetable swap also will be featured during the program. Gardening highlights the importance of the enriching the earth and the community, Resh continued.
“We’re trying to reach people who typically don’t visit the library.” Resh said. “I haven’t had anything but positive feedback,” Resh added.
Plans are to continue to offer the seed library this year until the seed supply is exhausted.
“If we do this again next year we have to make sure to give more basil,” Shoop said.