Launched on Earth Day 2014 and housed in Gleeson Library, the USF Seed Library is an ongoing collaboration between Gleeson Library and USF’s Urban Agriculture Program. It was established by two librarians (Debbie Benrubi and Carol Spector) and a professor (David Silver) to provide free seeds to the USF community.
Any member of the USF community can take seeds from the Seed Library, and all are encouraged to contribute seeds from their own garden. The Seed Library is heavily involved in outreach to USF and the greater community, and is regularly integrated into Urban Agriculture, Environmental Studies, and other classes.
Within Gleeson Library, alongside a collection of books and media about seeds, agriculture and sustainable food production, the Seed Library help makes tangible the connections between people, the food we eat, the labor that goes into it and the land where it grows. The Seed Library is incorporated into USF courses concerned with food production and food politics. In turn, students from the Urban Agriculture Minor as well as Environmental Studies Cornerstone and Capstone students have been actively involved in projects that both utilize and support the Seed Library. In addition, Art and Architecture students helped to refurbish the cabinets that hold the Seed Library.
Hundreds of members of the USF campus community have registered and keep a seed log at the library. Many more have taken seeds and elected not to register. And though we don’t register the greater community residents who use the Seed Library when we bring it out to public events, we are gratified that many hundreds of seeds from local gardens have been donated by these outside users.
The Seed Library provides seeds for our campus garden.
We have participated in several successful “seed swap” events with the City and County of San Francisco, where community members from outside USF have been encouraged and enthusiastic to bring and take seeds.
Seeds from the Seed Library have been a central element of several student projects at annual Earth Day celebrations for the San Francisco campus community. We also have an outpost in Sacramento, as the staff at the Sacramento campus has distributed seeds from the Seed Library at the campus Earth Day celebration.
Most recently, we are collaborating with the USF Food Pantry so that obtaining seeds and instructions for growing food and herbs is convenient for students using the Food Pantry.
Support of USF Mission
The Seed Library supports USF’s mission of social responsibility and the Jesuit ideal of cura personalis by providing students and the community at large with the means to grow healthy food and resources to learn how to do it. The seed library provides a model of how communities can attain sustainable food production and food justice, the right to grow and eat healthy food.
Challenges and Opportunities
We have found that students, staff and faculty become enthusiastic users of the Seed Library once they know about it. Students have designed stickers, labels, and social media outlets for the Seed Library, but getting the word out consistently is an ongoing challenge.
Because USF is technically a “closed” campus and USF ID is required to enter Gleeson Library, we are always on the lookout for ways to get the Seed Library involved with the city around us. We bring the Seed Library out to the public as often as possible through participation in community seed swaps and urban agriculture events.