I’ve already written about how much I like the Seed Library of Pima County Facebook page, but I thought I would take it a bit further and interview the person behind it. That person is librarian Justine Hernandez.
The page — like the seed library, which opened Jan. 28 — is new and still growing. It now has 254 fans. Hernandez’s method is propelled less by premeditated strategy and more by an intuitive sense of who her audience.
“The project just really invites community. It’s about community,” Hernandez said by way of explaining what drives her social media use. “We are just really wanting to engage the community.”
One way that she does that is to post a lot of photos. She uses her iPhone to snap photos of small and often little noticed gardens, as well as volunteers hard at work repackaging donated seeds into quantities more appropriately sized for a single person.
“I think it’s really important to acknowledge the faces involved,” she said. “People respond to visual things.”
The project involves a compelling mix of new and old technologies. The seeds are held in old card catalogs, long overshadowed by electronic databases. But electronic databases are key to promoting the project and ensuring its popularity. What is being promoted is not simply the library or sharing or even biodiversity, but also a renewed awareness of our agricultural past, Hernandez said. She herself is a new gardener.
Much of the funding the library received as part of the project went to buying books about gardening and seed saving. The seeds, which are all heirloom and open-pollinated seeds, were donated by local gardeners or seed companies.
So far, the promotion strategy seems to have worked. Hernandez says about two-thirds of the more than 6,000 seed packets in the library have been checked out and, she hopes, planted. Right now, librarians are encouraging people to get started, but eventually they will have to focus more on the return end of the check-out equation. “The idea is that it becomes over time self-sustaining” as people return seeds from their plants to the library and established gardeners continue contributing, Hernandez said.
The Facebook page was recently affected by the new Pima County social media guidelines, about which I hope to post more soon. The Pima County library branch pages now bear the county seal as part of the page’s main image, and employees posting to the page are called out by name in the Info section. There is also a link to Pima County’s social software commenting guidelines.