Sarah Pritchard and Liz Chenevey, both employees with James Madison University's Libraries and Educational Technologies Department, had been planning the launch of the school's Community Seed Library for a year before the grand opening at the end of February.
The seed library is a place where students and community members can "check out" seeds from a variety of heirloom and open-pollinated plants for free to use in their home gardens.
The seed library is funded through gifts to JMU Libraries, as well as through community donations and donations from seed companies. It is located in the lobby of Carrier Library and is open during the same hours as the library.
The grand opening was a success, with more than 100 people attending, Chenevey said. And in the two weeks leading up to spring break, the traffic to the seed library was heavy. While the library is self-serve and therefore specific numbers aren't kept, Pritchard said they noticed a decrease in inventory, indicating that students and community members were taking advantage.
"This is something we've been interested in and talked about for awhile," Pritchard said. "We were excited to see it become a reality."
A successful start to the new community resource was stopped abruptly by the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision to prevent JMU students from returning for the remainder of spring semester.
Both Chenevey and Pritchard are working from home and have developed a plan to get seeds to community members through a pickup system.
This is a pilot program, Pritchard and Chenevey said, and it has only just launched, so there are some kinks to be worked out and supply of certain seeds might run out.
But it was important to Pritchard and Chenevey that this program continue, now more than ever. With families staying home it's important that they have access to fresh vegetables, as well as educational opportunities.
Community members can find request forms at the seed library website, guides.lib.jmu.edu/seedlibrary. From there Pritchard or Chenevey will fill the order and arrange with the recipient a location for pickup while following all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on social distancing.
Once libraries are allowed to reopen, Pritchard and Chenevey want to expand the seed library to include educational events about harvesting seeds and more.
"Eventually we want people to harvest seeds and return them when the are able to," Chenevey said. "It's what makes it a library and a wonderful learning opportunity."