A Seed Was Sown

“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a Seed Library?” So said last year’s U-M Library SummerWorks Intern, Gregory Langsdale, planting the seed of possibility. Had the idea landed with anyone else, it might not have been able to grow, but Tashia Munson, a former librarian at Washtenaw Community College and current Outreach Librarian at U-M had first-hand experience with WCC’s Seed Library. She knew how valuable a Seed Library program could be in the context of academic research, scholarship, and engagement, so she set forth to create a U-M Seed Library Team.

Timeline of the seed library development including highlights from years 2023 - 2024 that summarizes selected blog content highlights in an image.

Team Member Stories: 

Caylen Cole-Hazel, library information professional by title and food systems community builder at heart was instrumental in making sure that the Seed Library set down its roots in the fertile soil of inclusion, equity, and engaged scholarship through diversified partnerships across Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn campuses. In the team’s words, 

“We envision the Seed Library as a point of connection for our three campuses where we can learn from and share with each other.”

The Seed Library Team has grown to include representatives from corresponding seed library efforts at Flint and Dearborn campuses as of April 2024.

Ariel Ojibway, a staff member at the U-M Libraries in circulation and outreach, has strong and vibrant connections to Washtenaw county municipal communities. Her approach to engaged public services and community partnerships has catalyzed important values of accountability and engagement amongst library programs, offering a broadened sense of purpose and discovery for all. She represented the U-M Library at one of the first Ann Arbor District Library Seed Swaps and connected the event’s surplus seeds to her local Ypsilanti District Library whose Seed Library cabinet is always open for exchange. She is inspired by the AADL’s Seed Sampler creators, Marisa Huston and Elizabeth Smith, whose efforts in advocating for and launching their seed sampler program included making seeds available for all Washtenaw county residents, even those who could not travel to the library in person.

New to U-M, as of September 2023, Laura Mallard heads up U-M Dearborn’s campus seed library leadership effort along with Valerie Owoski and Jacob Napieralski at the Environmental Interpretive Center at Dearborn's campus. U-M Dearborn has been heavily invested in community food growing/education projects for years. On their 120 acre Environmental Interpretive Center they have a Community Organic Garden and run a Children’s Garden Program, in addition to initiatives such as the Pollinator Garden where they run projects like the Birding by Ear Program for blind and visually-impaired youth. Four years before the SEAS Bees project launched Ann Arbor as part of the Bees Campus USA, U-M Dearborn’s campus already had the certification. 

block M insect overwintering house overlooking the pollinator garden at U-M dearborn's campus

Jordan Tiffany, an information resource assistant at the U-M Flint Thompson Library is gaining ground in formalizing a seed library on Flint's campus with support from U-M Flint Library administration. Way back in 2002 U-M Flint had the Community Garden Storytelling Project of Flint, a community based participatory research project investigating the effect of community gardening on violence prevention and social relationships among other things. A dozen or so years later, U-M football alumni banded together to create a non-profit which grew vegetables for the community adjacent to three Flint elementary schools. Meanwhile the Ann Arbor campus was developing its interdisciplinary East Quad GardenSustainable Food Systems Initiative and comprehensive Campus Farm - all three of whom have graciously donated Michigan native seed varieties to the Seed Library opening on the first floor of Shapiro. The U-M Botanical Gardens will also participate by bringing plants to the Seed Library opening event to lead a workshop on seed harvesting techniques.

For Krystel Anderson, a graduate student in the School of Information whose Seed Library Team position is sponsored by the U-M Library Engagement Fellows program (coordinated by U-M Library’s Learning and Teaching department), the project has been a unique opportunity to connect her Master's in Information Science to actionable, real world community programming. 

“Working on the seed library project has truly been a process of growth. As our team has come together through our shared values of sustainability and community connection, we have had the opportunity to connect with existing community sustainability efforts on campus and foster long-lasting relationships. It has been a platform of personal and professional advancement, where I've had the chance to enhance my knowledge of local biodiversity efforts and how to coordinate events and foster collaboration on a campus-wide level. Each step of the process has brought new learning experiences, and I am so excited to continue working with this wonderful project and community!”

Student Engagement and Future Directions: 

The Seed Library Team at the University of Michigan is working within the soil of this rich tri-campus and community history to grow something beautiful, useful and meaningful for students, staff, and community on a personal, as well as professional, level. Students in the Winter 2024 Environ 391 (Sustainability and the Campus) course have gained valuable project management experience in helping to vision a long term recommendation plan for the U-M Seed Library. 

“One of the things we hope to do with our Seed Library is amplifying education and facilitating a circular economy through community partnerships. As part of their curriculum, campus farm faculty anticipates growing out seeds for the library at the MBGNA site. In the future we recommend continuing to find ways to walk students through each step in the seed harvesting process through archived videos, including hands-on creative and exploratory activities as often as possible.”

Students have so much power to shape this campus! The planting, tending and fruition of the Seed Library came about because of students and will continue benefiting the community through the student engagement that is at the core of this effort. Whatever your seed of an idea is for making this campus a better place, we hope that you plant it. Your hard work and willingness to share your ideas means future generations of students and the wider community will benefit from and carry your legacy forward.