Back in the fall of 2013, while the Rye Free Reading Room’s new director, Chris Shoemaker, was doing an inventory of things in the attic, a light bulb went off in his head.
By Bill Lawyer
Back in the fall of 2013, while the Rye Free Reading Room’s new director, Chris Shoemaker, was doing an inventory of things in the attic, a light bulb went off in his head. Gathering dust from years of obsolescence, the library’s old card catalogue cabinets gave Shoemaker pause for thought. “I said to myself,” he recounted, “what could we do with these?”
Here’s where Rye resident and library volunteer Alexis Gothberg came into the picture. Working on an advanced degree in secondary education, she was looking for ways to put her research and communication skills to work. Before long, Gothberg, Shoemaker, and Nancy Smith of the Rye Garden Club were envisioning using the card catalogue drawers to help promote home gardening projects. Instead of cards, the drawers would be filled with seeds.
The seed catalogue and related materials were officially installed on May 29, near the reference desk and DVD collections. Librarygoers can browse through the various seed packets and “check out” whatever kinds they would like to grow – at no charge.
Those readers of a certain age may recall in the old days when people would receive seed catalogues in the mail in winter, then place their orders for planting in the spring. So, in an “everything old is new again” sort of way, the library’s seeds (in labeled packets) would themselves be catalogued.
“As libraries grow to encourage all kinds of learning, it makes sense to help people explore their passions, going beyond books to alternative kinds of materials.”
At this point, just one card catalogue cabinet is being used. It has five columns of six drawers each. The seeds are divided into herbs, greens, tomatoes, and two columns of vegetables.
Among the plants are three kinds of tomatoes, red Russian kale, Genovese basil, apple green eggplant, and beets. The total budget for the project was about $200.
Recognizing that people may need some information and encouragement to get started growing plants from seed, the library is planning a series of programs and workshops this summer and fall. The latter programs will help people learn how to collect seeds for future planning.
Gothberg has carried out most of the design and coordination. She and the library staff are working with the Hudson Valley Seed Library, based in Accord, New York.
The Rye Garden and Little Garden Clubs have donated funds to add to the library’s already extensive collection of books about gardening. The library is planning to get help from the clubs to carry out the education and promotional activities designed by Gothberg.
While distributing seeds is not considered a normal aspect of a library’s operations, Shoemaker feels that it fits in quite well. He says: “As libraries grow to encourage all kinds of learning, it makes sense to help people explore their passions, going beyond books to alternative kinds of materials.”
For further information, speak with Shoemaker or Maria Lagonia, managing librarian.