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International Seed Library Forum

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International Seed Library Forum

Pima County Public Library, Ariz.

Civic and Community Engagement | 2016

Innovation Summary

Promoting food security dialog and cooperative action surrounding local resources, the Seed Library of Pima County Public Library coordinated and hosted the first-ever International Seed Library Forum, in which international experts highlighted how vital seed libraries are in creating best practices for seed saving and sharing at the community level.

Problem Statement

For 12,000 years people have freely saved and shared seeds, resulting in the diverse foundation of food security we enjoy today. Recently, this diversity has diminished greatly and communities have responded by reconnecting to their common heritage of growing food and saving seeds by opening seed libraries, often in public libraries. Between 2012 and 2015, certain state regulatory agencies began applying agriculture laws, intended for commercial regulation, to seed libraries, impacting the free sharing of a community resource. Taking a proactive approach, the Forum created a space for citizens to mobilize and share ideas around this topic of national importance.


The Forum brought together a diverse group of social justice advocates around the concept of food security and sustainability. It established an environment for ongoing dialog about current and potential issues faced by seed exchanges. Over four days, attendees from seven countries participated in table discussions, author talks, seed swaps, poetry readings, and documentary viewings. They built connections and shared information, furthering the awareness of, and education about, the importance of seed saving and distribution. As the first national grassroots seed conference of its kind, the Forum ensured that this fundamental topic remains a vital issue well into the future.


The Forum has affected notable change nationally and internationally. Legislatively, dedicated participants have helped protect seed libraries in states where threats loomed, including in Illinois where a Seed Library Bill was passed. Enthusiastic attendees wrote and adopted a Joint Resolution in Support of Seed Libraries, and Pima County declared the week of May 3-9 “Seed Library Week.” Cited for its commitment to local food heritage, the Forum set the stage for Tucson’s recognition as a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy. An International Seed Library Association was developed to gather annually in an effort to support seed libraries worldwide.