Seed-lending library a resource for beginner and expert gardeners alike

Founded by Education Librarian Wendy Traas and Reference Librarian Helen Brown in 2017, the UBC Seed Lending Library is an opportunity for anyone to develop their own garden, free of cost.

The seed-lending library allows anyone to sign out seeds from Woodward or the Education Libraries. At the end of the season, once the crops are completed and enjoyed, the borrowers are encouraged to return cleaned seeds.

Seeing similar seed libraries pop up across the province, the two founders believed it to be the next meaningful step for UBC to foster their own seed collection.

“We got to talking about how the conditions here at UBC are perfect,” Traas said. “We have UBC Farm, a community of students and faculty who garden on campus … This being an institution of scholarship, research, teaching and learning, we thought a seed lending library would work perfectly.”

Having a 240 per cent increase in seed borrowing from 2017 to 2018 and a massive increase in seed donations, the library took root within the UBC community. Focusing on sustainability of the seed lending practice and fostering community connections, the library’s selection succeeded in creating a community of those bonding together over a shared love of gardening.

From vegetables to herbs and flowers, the library boasts a formidable seed collection to suit all ranges of gardening experience. For those interested in developing their agricultural roots but have no idea where to start, the library offers lettuce and bean seeds — the perfect combination for beginning gardeners.

“I don’t know much about gardening,” Traas said, describing her own experience with the library. “... So it’s been a fun experiment for me ... I’m mostly growing veggies, tomatoes, zucchini and lots of herbs! It’s trial and error, but that’s the point.”

Beyond serving the needs of the average gardener, the program has also grown to be an integral part of UBC research and education. Many of the seed donations come from UBC Land and Food Systems research and are, as a result, acclimatized to the climate of the Lower Mainland.

UBC’s Orchard Garden has also taken advantage of the collection to generate research with more than a dozen master’s theses, PhD dissertations and graduation projects based in the garden.

Going forward, the seed-lending library hopes to expand its reach by seeking new possible partnerships with the Xwi7xwa Library and attracting new community members with the same passion.

“To me, [the seed lending library] is almost a blank slate,” Traas said. “You can do so many things with it.”