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Stevenston residents sprout into (climate) action at new Seed Library

With COP28 – the international climate summit – now well underway, we are using staff Latest News and Staff Talk to spotlight the various actions that local people can take to help us tackle climate change together, once and for all.

Over at Stevenston Library, the team are doing something a little different with the introduction of North Ayrshire’s latest Seed Library.

The new eco-friendly initiative launched at the Library in October 2023 is part of a North Ayrshire-wide project addressing food insecurity in our six localities.

Already sprouting across North Ayrshire at Arran, Dalry, Kilbirnie, Kilwinning, Largs and Saltcoats library venues, the latest addition is part of the Council’s sustainable food growing strategy and the Seed Library sees Stevenston become the latest local library to do its part to fight against climate change.

Having the Seed Library in Stevenson is special as the town was selected as one of Scotland’s first Climate Action Towns back in 2021 as part of a Scottish Government-funded project to support place-based climate action in communities.

Project lead Mhairi Cook (pictured right) tells us more about how it works…

Where did the idea for Seed Library come from?

“The idea for Seed Library at Stevenston first came about when we were successful is securing funding for a wider project supported by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals’ Scotland (CILIPS) Green Libraries Fund.

“Climate Action Town Stevenston – known as CAT Stevenston – will offer a series of climate and environmental-themed activities for schools, families and the local community in the library and surrounding area, including climate cinema screenings, climate classroom, eco-learning activities and outdoor learning sessions.”

So the seed library is the first instalment then?

Correct. The seed library is the first of many projects with a climate focus – stay tuned to North Ayrshire Libraries on social media in early 2024. Stay tuned to North Ayrshire Libraries Facebook page @NorthAyrshireLibraries for more updates on the pilot. We also have Seed Libraries operating at Arran Library, Kilbirnie Library and Kilwinning Library.

How exactly does a seed library work?

“Put simply, the seed library lends seeds to gardeners and others who are interested in learning how to grow their own organic produce. It works much the same as traditional library – with a twist…

“Seeds are borrowed from the seed library and at the end of the growing season, seeds from the plants grown are returned in a portion to the library to replenish their supply.”

Do you need to know your stuff when it comes to gardening to be involved?

“No, not at all. The new Stevenston Seed Library is open to everyone – you don’t need to be a library member or green-fingered for that matter either 😊”

What’s there to borrow?

Filled with seeds that do well in North Ayrshire’s blustery and at times dreich climate, you don’t even need to have a garden as window boxes, flowerpots, allotments or even a compost-filled old welly boot will do the trick. From leeks, carrots and other veggies to herbs and other native plants, we have lots on offer, why not pop in to the library and see for yourself?

Do you have set climate related-goals for 2024?

Yes, we have a host and we also have a number of community ambitions too.

Our first aim is to promote the wider benefits of lending from the Seed Library – this article is one such way we are doing this, as we are keen for staff to get involved too if they live in North Ayrshire (and we know that 75 per cent of Council staff do), so – just think how much we could row and cultivate together if we just tried our hand at a few seeds and species…

Other Seed Library benefits we are promoting via social media and conversations with library visitors include:

  • Seed Libraries help residents to build a community with fellow gardeners and eco enthusiasts
  • Encourage people of all ages to learn a new sustainable skill while contributing to the area’s local biodiversity
  • Help to preserve the positive characteristics of heirloom seeds so that the same size, colour or flavour if edible (think tomatoes, leeks, potatoes) can be passed from the parent plant to the next year’s seedlings
  • Those taking part get to keep all the produce from the things you grow and experience the satisfaction of growing them yourself
  • The project is a practical and easy way to do your part to contribute to our ambitious aim of reduce the North Ayrshire’s carbon footprint so that we can become a net zero local authority by 2030.

Final thoughts…

“We are also really keen to ensure that we form a circular seed supply, so once people begin to grow, as time goes on, they will hopefully return their next crop of seeds and supplement our existing seed supply – and the green cycle goes on.”

Mhairi adds: “I would like to thank the library staff and our community volunteers involved in making this important project come to fruition and of course CILIPS who have generously funded the project, with Scottish Libraries and Information Council supporting funding for our other Seed Library locations. Special thanks to our wonderful team of Lifelong Learning Assistants who are working hard to raise awareness and get even more library and community members involved in taking the next positive green steps towards tackling climate change.”

“The initiative so far has gone down really well in our other libraries, and I have no doubt that gardeners and beginners in the Three Towns will also find Stevenston’s Seed Library a welcome addition as lenders grow their confidence.

“We look forward to welcoming anyone who is green-fingered or wants to do their part to address food insecurity and nature loss (biodiversity) in North Ayrshire.

“Our libraries also have a wealth of gardening books to help you on your way. So what are you waiting for? Come along and start your eco journey with North Ayrshire Libraries!”

Vegetables and herbs are the main focus of the new Seed Library – please speak to library staff about how to get involved or visit the website: for further details including how to make a seed deposit.

Seed Library Staff at Stevenston Library opening event
Mung beans ready for spouting into action
Seeds sprout from soil
Produce from vegetable patch
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