May 20, 2022

Public Libraries: “Seed Libraries Struggle With State Laws Limiting Exchanges”

From the Associated Press:

Seed exchanges have sprouted up in about 300 locations around the country, most often in libraries, where gardeners can exchange self-pollinating seeds rather than buy standard, hybrid seeds. In spots like Duluth, Minnesota, the conflict with agriculture departments has surprised gardeners and library officials, who established exchanges to meet a growing interest in locally grown food and preserving certain varieties, never thinking to examine the intricacies of state seed laws.


The issue first arose last summer in Pennsylvania, when a state inspector became aware of a seed exchange at a public library in Mechanicsburg that appeared to violate the law.

State Agriculture Department Deputy Secretary Jay Howes said his office “sent them a nice letter” that outlined the problem, noting seed distributed by the library needed to be tested and the library would have to be licensed. State officials and the library quickly resolved the situation by agreeing to hold one-day seed swaps, Howes said.

Despite the agreement, some were puzzled about why the state had demanded changes. The department felt it was wrongly portrayed as cracking down on well-intentioned gardeners, when officials had little choice.


Meanwhile, Oakland, California-based Sustainable Economies Law Center is providing information to seed libraries about state laws, including an online “Seed Law Tool Shed” that compiles relevant sections. Neil Thapar, a lawyer for the center, said his group planned to help state legislatures draft measures that would allow the libraries.

Carla Powers from the Duluth Public Library is quoted in the article.

Read the Complete Article

Direct to “Seed Library Tool Shed” Mentioned in Article

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.