The Basalt Regional Library

Is it just us, or does it seem as if there’s an unusually large number of quirky library stories floating around lately?

Thanks in no small part to the digital revolution, many municipal libraries today are watching their budgets shrink at the same time they find themselves having to defend against accusations of irrelevance. But there is an upside to the pressure so many libraries are experiencing these days: entrepreneurial creativity. After all, when it begins to look as if your very business model may be facing extinction, new and oftentimes unusual ideas tend to begin sprouting like so many weeds.

Case in point: the Basalt Regional Library in small-town Basalt, Colo., where fruit, vegetable and flower seeds are now being borrowed alongside more standard fare, like books and DVDs. Although unlike the circulating books on the library’s shelves, the seeds themselves aren’t returned. Instead, the idea is for patrons to wait until their fruits and vegetables have grown, at which point they’re instructed to collect the seeds of the biggest and healthiest specimens. Those seeds are then returned to the Basalt Public Library, and are repackaged and passed along to someone else.

Unofficially known as the seed library, the program is a partnership between Basalt and the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute. And as a article about the seed library points out, “due to the process of natural selection, the seeds from plants that survive contain the qualities of their parent, meaning that the more popular the scheme, the greater the quality of seeds offered by the library.”

NPR’s Weekend Edition also covered the story; you can listen to the program (or read the show’s transcript) here.