10 years of seeds, bikes, and books!

The Bookbike and the Seed Library are celebrating 10 years of service! Both of these services were established back in 2012 and continue to be very popular.

The Library has three Bookbikes that go out to community events to give out free books, library cards, and information about Library programs and services. Bike Ambassadors also go on monthly visits to farmers markets and neighborhood centers. If you would like to donate books for our Bookbikes, you can bring them to any branch and let staff know they are specifically for the Bookbike. We always need books in Spanish, Cookbooks, and Children’s books. 

The Seed Library is a collection of open-pollinated and heirloom seeds that you can borrow from to plant and grow at home. There is no requirement to return seeds, but some of our savvy local growers are able to save seeds and we welcome donations. See the list of libraries that have seed collections you can browse. If your library does not have a collection, you can place holds in the catalog and have the seeds sent for pick up at the library of your choice. Learn more on our welcome page, and browse through all our resources, news, tips, and events on the Seed Library page!

To mark this 10th anniversary, we asked some of our team members to reflect on their work with the Seed Library. Here are some reflections from those that helped us get here and those that will keep the steward seeds for years to come. Here's to 10 years!

From the more experienced hands...

Betsy Langley, Managing Librarian, Sahuarita Library

I’m honored to have been involved with the Seed Library since the early days in 2012. Personally, my gardening skills have improved and it’s amazing to add homegrown food to family meals! I’ve also learned a great deal about partnerships and the power of community connections. Being part of this growing movement is one of the highlights of my library career. I’m thankful for the impassioned insight of founder, Justine Hernandez, opportunities to work with many wonderful team-members, and a better understanding of biodiversity and seed-saving.

Lu Guerrero, Managing Librarian, Sam Lena-South Tucson Library

El contribuir al labor de la biblioteca de semillas es productivo y gratificante al ver que tiene el potencial de crear lazos comunitarios a través de generaciones, culturas y tradiciones agrícolas.  El cultivo, el intercambio y la conservación de semillas ancestrales nos permiten enfrentar diversas realidades tales como el cambio climático, el declive de la biodiversidad, y los efectos económicos y sociales a lo largo de una pandemia. Además del aporte económico, estas prácticas también tiene la potencial de apoyar la salud espiritual de una comunidad.

Susannah Connor, Seed Librarian, Joel D. Valdez Main Library

Three things I've learned as part of the Seed Library Team:

1) A seed is an amazing thing. Seeds have so much genetic potential wrapped up in such a neat package. There is nothing more wonderful than a sprouting seed.

2) Reduce food waste. It pains me to waste any food because I appreciate how many inputs go into creating food. Every single tomato is a miracle!

3) People are inspiring. I've been fortunate to meet and work with the most thoughtful, compassionate, and dedicated people over the past 10 years: my colleagues, new gardeners, community activists, scholars, and seed savers. Seeing people work to improve access to healthy food, to adapt to climate change, to beautify their neighborhood, to steward robust seeds for future generations makes me hopeful for the future.

Kelly Wilson, Managing Librarian, Eckstrom-Columbus Library

The seed library is itself like a tiny seed planted over 10 years ago.  It sprouted and blossomed thanks to the nurturing care of many talented and committed people.  As it continues to grow into the future, it will undoubtedly need to bend in the breeze and endure the hot, cold, wet and dry of seasonal changes. Much like a strong, young tree sending out roots, deep into our community, it will connect people and support local growing.  As the new branches spread, they will provide local seed borrowers with resources they need to help secure more beautiful and bountiful tomorrows.

And from sprouting team members...

Escarlen Garcia-Chavez, Library Associate, Quincie Douglas Library

As a library patron, I knew that along with the ability to check out books, we could also “check out” seeds. Once I began working at the library, I knew I wanted to be part of this great team of people interested in preserving and promoting garden growing in the Tucson community. I joined the Seed Team mainly to encourage the usage of the seed library within the south-side communities that might be put off by the idea of having to return seeds because they might be unaware of how the seed library works! We don’t require returns but encourage people that successfully grow something to pay it forward and share! 

During the pandemic closure, we began to offer book bundles at all branches, and I thought, “Hey, why not try seed bundles, too?”  Along with some colleagues, we picked out a few companion vegetable and herb sets that grew well together. Those were a hit and were super cute too! I also had a chance to do a little science set-up with a grow light to share some seed starts with patrons. Last summer, we were able to give away a few varieties of flowers, like Zinnias and Marigolds.

 Our community is full of traditional knowledge of what grows well here, and I love to see the pride in people’s faces when gardener patrons come in and share their stories with us. My main goal continues to be the same; to help foster pride in our community’s traditional knowledge, share gardening tips for growing in the desert southwest, and sometimes even serve as a cheerleader to support patrons not to give up. When it comes to desert gardening, my motto is:  If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again!

Natalie Guillen, Library Technical Assistant, Joel D. Valdez Main Library

When I was a page a few years ago, I frequently assisted the seed library and occasionally had the opportunity to work with Sharon and Geoffrey. I began to appreciate the work that was being done because of those rare occasions. Later, when the chance to be a member of such a wonderful group of people offered itself, I seized it. Since then, I’ve taken part in a few activities, learnt a lot, and gotten to know a lot of wonderful individuals. I adore the seed library and am eager to continue.

Ellery Page, Library Associate, Joel D. Valdez Main Library

Although I don't consider myself a real gardener the seed library is the first thing I want to tell people the library has. I like seeing their faces either scrunch up in confusion as they think through how that could work, or open wide with surprise as they realize the possibilities. For me, I've always seen the library as a place for connection. Connecting people to information, to resources, to other people, and to community. The seed library extends these possibilities by connecting people to the earth they live on and that's pretty inspiring.

Carlos Aguila, Library Technical Assistant, Quincie Douglas Library

I joined the Seed Library team, because of the incredible people that make the seed library function. Despite never planting a seed, I decided to join for that reason. I am excited to discover what awaits on my seed journey, and to assist first time planters with my developing knowledge. In the process, even learn a bit from seed growers that come to check seeds out.

Nico Dominguez, Library Associate, Valencia Library

I joined the team because I wanted to learn more about our seed collection and what wonders they become as plants. I think it is cool that the Seed Library has a collection of seeds with planting guides that help new gardeners during the changing seasons. I’m looking forward to sharing knowledge about seeds, planting, and gardening with the staff and community in future projects.

Eva Ortiz, Circulation Clerk, Valencia Library

I joined the team because I wanted to share my experience with plants and also be able to learn new things about planting. I REALLY LIKE plants and growing them!! It's cool that we allow patrons to borrow seeds and grow plants in their gardens... and it is all free! I am looking forward to learning and having programs that will teach the public different aspects of having a garden, i.e. Hydroponics, aquaponics, container gardening, composting, etc.

Brianna Velador, Library Technical Assistant, Valencia Library

I joined the Seed Library team at Valencia Library when I became an LTA here a year ago. I was fascinated with gardening at the library, something unique and a little different from programs that I frequented in my childhood as a Valencia Library visitor. I joined with no gardening experience, but a great willingness to learn, and I am excited to share with everyone what I have learned and share this amazing program.

It’s a wonderful program to promote growing plants that thrive in the Tucson environment, and bring together our green thumb patrons of all ages and backgrounds. Over the summer we’ve had a couple of “Desert Gardening with Kids” in our garden with local gardening expert Miss Anna. Here, we showcased our thriving plants to children and parents. Many of them asked our team experts about what kinds of plants we have, and how they can grow their own plants too.

The Seed Team here at Valencia has been working hard to grow and promote growing native crops, such as the Sonoran Wheat available in the catalog. I think it’s so cool that we can collaborate with local organizations to improve and promote the seed library and gardening. One of the organizations that Valencia Library has collaborated with is the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, where their gardening experts have taught us to create self-watering containers that require less water, but keep our plants very happy. We plan on teaching PCPL staff and community members how to make and use this whimsical invention as well. Stay tuned!

As we do more programming in the library, I look forward to working with our patrons and community members. I am so happy that Valencia Library has a garden of its own in the enclosed patio, and I hope that we can use this to our advantage for more programming. I am always thrilled to see the progress of the garden, such as when our sunflowers get super tall or when our red okra grows an abundance of crops. I am always curious to put on my “thinking cap” to see what works best for our plants, such as when one thrives in our gardening tank, but not another. I hope to engage more families and invite patrons of all ages to help us with our garden, showing them the magic and joy of growing their own plants from seeds in the Seed Library.