The seed library is the handiwork of Talbot County Master Gardener Missy Corley, who last year worked with the library staff and others to pull it together. (Photo by Debra R. Messick)

For the second growing season in a row, Mid-Shore residents once again can bask in the best of both worlds, courtesy of the Free Seed Library at Talbot County Public Library’s main branch, 100 W. Dover Street in Easton.
Sponsored by the University of Maryland Extension Office, the Free Seed Library is aptly housed in an iconic wooden card catalog near the circulation desk, next to the copy machine, and just across the aisle from DVDs, with CDs, magazines, personal computers, and, of course, books, all within easy reach.
Nostalgic ambience aside, the catalog’s drawers are perfectly sized for the palm-sized packets of numerous varieties of seeds available free of charge to aspiring gardeners.
The seed library requires no card — just the time to peruse the colorful offerings advertised on each sachet’s jacket, select your seeds, sprinkle a few into one of the envelopes provided, and sign the “check-out” sheet (for inventory purposes).
Master Gardeners will be on hand at Talbot Library on Thursday, April 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and in the lobby each Saturday morning in May from 10 a.m. to noon to answer questions, give out seeds, and offer tours of the Seed Library to newcomers.
Starting in California more than a decade ago, the idea of seed libraries has been germinating steadily ever since among public libraries around the country, at the same time they’ve been challenged by the onset of the digital publishing revolution.
Forced to find ways to serve communities beyond the traditional mainstay of books, several hundred are currently participating in varying degrees, all the way from seed packs held in plastic storage boxes under staircases, to those more elaborately organized, displayed, and barcoded with formal check out procedures.
The seed library is the handiwork of Talbot County Master Gardener Missy Corley, who last year worked with the library staff and others to pull it together.
“As an MG (Master Gardener) we need to do volunteer activities throughout the year. I was looking for ways to volunteer and had read about seed libraries in other areas of the country,” Corley said. “I approached our MG coordinator, Mikaela Boley, who works for UMD Extension, about starting a seed library here in Talbot County. We met with Dana Newman and Scotti Oliver at the Talbot County Free Library in Easton to see if they were interested in hosting the seed library and had room for it.
“I knew of an old card catalog that was for sale and asked the owner if she would consider lending it to us for the seed library. It all came together rather quickly!
“I approached several organic seed companies and Seed Savers Coalition for donations of seeds to get us started. We were overwhelmed with donations last year! We encourage patrons of the seed library to save seeds at the end of the season and donate some back to the seed library. In this way, we hope to make it self-sustaining. Talbot County Master Gardeners have also donated many seeds.
We do ask users to sign-out their seeds so we can keep track of how many seeds are being used, but it’s anonymous. You can take as many seeds as you like and there’s no obligation to return seeds (although we’d love that!),” Corley added.
The Master Gardeners and University of Maryland Extension look at it as more than an individual benefit, but ultimately an investment in a better community.
“Our goals for establishing the seed library were to encourage local residents to grow their own vegetables, fruits and herbs, as well as pollinator-attracting flowers. In this environmentally-sensitive area along the Chesapeake Bay, the more yard space that is used for these types of plants the better!” Corley said.
An avid gardener since buying her Easton home in 2010, Corley said she now, more than ever, practices what she preaches, by adopting a “front yard farming” lifestyle — mulching over the grass in front of her house and growing vegetables there instead.