When most people walk into a library, they expect quiet spaces, a robust collection of books and plenty of computers for public use. Community members who have wandered into the Wantagh Public Library this summer, however, have also found something different: seeds.
Wantagh is now home to a seed library. Seeds are treated just like the books that line the library shelves, in that any patrons may borrow them. Once they germinate and grow a plant at home, participants in the program are expected to return the seeds left behind by their fruit, vegetable, flower or herb to the library.
Residents who do not have space to grow plants at home will be invited to care for their seeds in a new community garden outside the library. While it is currently not much more than a mound of dirt, if all goes according to plan, it will soon be brimming with flowers and other flora.
Ian Smith, the head of reference, developed the seed library. He said that the program, which launched last month, was inspired by a similar project in Glen Clove that was highly successful. It also seemed like a perfect opportunity to preserve rare seed varieties, Smith explained, and to bring the community closer together.
“You see people who haven’t gardened before try out the seed library,” he said. “Seeing people get out of their comfort zone and try something new is pretty exciting.”
Most of the seeds come from a nonprofit organization based in Iowa called the Seed Saver Exchange. Smith explained that the library is offered a variety of seeds, including those for miniature watermelons, okra, endive, lavender, cilantro, sunflowers, hyacinth and Bells of Ireland.
Patrons may also take home seed lollipops, inside which they will find surprise seeds, which they will have to plant to see what grows.
Smith said that he and his colleagues are constantly brainstorming new events and programs into which they can incorporate the seed library and community garden throughout the year. One of their goals is for the garden to be maintained solely by patrons. It can be self-sustaining if it is used and tended to regularly, he noted. When the garden opens, residents will have access to a hose to water the plants.
Smith said that creating an environment that will encourage families to garden together is especially important to him. He plants with his wife and children at home. “It’s definitely a bonding experience with them, ” he said. “I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, and they water and garden every day. They’re always looking at how it’s growing. They love it.”
The library’s annual summer reading program incorporated the seed library program. Maggie Marino, the facility’s director, said that the summer reading theme — Build a Better World — was based on how the library is attempting to grow a better planet.
Participants in the reading program were invited to share photos of the plants they were growing to receive extra raffle tickets for prizes that were given out at the summer reading party on Aug. 8. At the party, a member of the Cornell Cooperate of Nassau County discussed how to take care of various vegetables.
Smith said that other possible events include a seed swap, during which community members would trade seeds; a charity program, in which patrons would grow fruits and vegetables for food banks for homeless and needy people; and a children’s program in which youngsters would be encouraged to grow their own pumpkins and decorate them for Halloween.
Whatever the library’s next endeavor might be, Marino said, it’s guaranteed to be unconventional, and to be geared toward improving the Wantagh community. “What we’re doing with the seed library and community garden is offering services that libraries don’t traditionally provide, which is pretty tremendous,” she said. “By growing food and creating new connections, we will be benefiting others.”
For more information about the seed library, visit www.wantaghlibrary.org/adults/seed-library.