Celebrating 10 Years of the Common Soil Seed Library

This article was orginally featured in the Omaha World-Herald on April 2, 2023.

As the weather begins to warm in the Omaha metro, many area residents will prepare for another growing season by clearing out old foliage, amending soil with compost and fertilizers, and perhaps sowing cold-weather crops for some early garden goodness.

This upcoming season is particularly special for Omaha Public Library as it marks the 10th anniversary of the Common Soil Seed Library, a collection of open-pollinated vegetable, flower and herb seeds available for checkout with your library card.

The Common Soil Seed Library dates back to 2012 when a library staff member shared the idea with library leadership. The project was developed in coordination with a community seed expert and proposed a potential plan for funding and acquiring the seed collection, seed education, and more. After considerable planning and preparation, the Seed Library launched in 2013 at Benson Branch. Approximately 1,723 seed packets were checked out in the first year, and that number more than doubled the following year. Circulation has continued to grow steadily, with more than 47,000 seed packets checked out in 2022.

Today, Common Soil seed packets are available at all Omaha Public Library branches, housed in upcycled wooden card catalogs containing around 115 varieties of flower, herb and vegetable garden staples. Would-be seed borrowers need only a current Omaha Public Library card to check out up to 15 seed packets (each containing roughly 10 seeds) per calendar month, per cardholder).

Seed checkouts reset at the beginning of each calendar month, allowing patrons to check out an additional 15 packets. Patrons with an interest in seed saving are encouraged to donate seeds back to the library at the end of the growing season, but returning seeds is not required.

To celebrate 10 years of sharing seeds and stories, Omaha Public Library invites the community to attend an open house at Benson Branch, 6015 Binney St., on Saturday, 2 to 4 p.m. Meet members of the local urban agricultural community, grab a curated “New Gardener Seed Pack” for both vegetable and pollinator gardens, and pick up a celebratory seed paper bookmark!

Additional gardening education will be offered with a focus on seed saving at these upcoming events:

Planning Your Garden for Seed Saving: April 15, 1 to 3 p.m. at Benson Branch

Soil Health for Gardeners: May 13, 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Millard Branch, 13214 Westwood Lane

Seed Saving: San Marzano Tomatoes: Aug. 26, 2 to 4 p.m. at Charles B. Washington Branch, 2868 Ames Ave.

Learn more and register for these events at omahalibrary.org/events. For additional resources such as seeds, books on gardening and horticulture, online classes, and more, visit omahalibrary.org/seed-library, opens a new window or stop by your local Omaha Public Library branch to get growing!

If you have questions regarding how you can start your own garden this growing season, contact OPL's Urban Gardening Librarian Jacob Lee at jlee@omahalibrary.org or search the library catalog for resources on starting the best garden for you. 

Recommended Reads

The Complete Book of Ground Covers

Botany for Gardeners

The Urban Garden

Companion Planting for Beginners

How to Garden When You Rent