Libraries as Seed Banks: An Open Data Opportunity

Source: Neil Palmer via Wikimedia Commons
My friend @macjudith posted an article the other day that completely piqued my interest: "How To Save A Public Library: Make It A Seed Bank.


It turns out that Basalt, Colorado has a public library that has started a seed bank. Not just to catalogue and store the seeds, but to enable citizens to check out seeds and plant them at home! In exchange, they take the best produce from their crops, harvest the seeds and return them to the library for someone else to use.

As libraries are trying to redefine their identities to be relevant in the digital age, this is one innovative approach that could help in extending their lives. The seed banks are expected to evolve since some crops will succeed and others will fail, the strongest always coming back into the bank. Over time, it could contain evolve to only contain the most robust crops and therefore serve as an effective, proven index of the vegetation that is best suited to the climate and soil in that region.

If all libraries opened up seed banks, they could catalogue and store all of the best crops for each region of the country, an extremely valuable inventory in times of drought or other natural disaster. Not to mention, since librarians are masters of classification and information management, you just know those seeds would be classified and organized like nowhere else. It's a match made in info-science heaven.

I checked to see if this type of program has taken hold yet in Canada, and it doesn't seem so. What do you think? Should we petition the Ottawa Public Library to take this on? They did just build a nice new storage facility on Merivale Road. Or maybe Library and Archives Canada? I mean, they have the Global Preservation Centre which has climate-controlled facilities to preserve and store various types of media (books, art, etc.).  Why not seeds? #imJustSaying

And what about an Open Data spin? The World Bank has some national seed data sets available, but clearly more work is required to make sure that all seed banks, no matter how small and how (under)resourced can contribute their data into the global data set. And there is no common app the permit data sharing at this time.

What if someone were to create an open source, open data application that the libraries and all other seed banks in the world could then use to classify their seeds? With an application programming interface, that data could be shared with other libraries and seed banks all over the world.

A global open seed network.

Wouldn't that be incredible? Here's hoping someone gets on that soon. Until then, hats off to Colorado and the other dozen or so libraries in the US lending their shelves to building seed banks.

(Source: @macjudith)