Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ
MLS, University of Arizona, 2010
An amateur photographer, Hernandez loves to celebrate everyday beauty by seeking out often-missed gems on the streets of Tucson
Photo by Dean Knuth
Librarian Justine Hernandez was at one of Tucson’s farmers markets trying to figure out how to connect Pima County Public Library (PCPL) to gardeners and the local food movement when she learned about grassroots community repositories for seeds.
An idea began to sprout: What if the library loaned seeds?
Hernandez’s proposal germinated in 2012. Over the next two years, the Seed Library grew from one branch to eight, sustained by patrons returning the seeds they reaped. Among her other duties, Hernandez coordinates seed-related programming, working with three librarians and other staff and community groups including Master Gardeners and a food bank.
Public libraries from California to New Hampshire partner with community groups to lend seeds. What sets Hernandez apart is her approach. The Pima Seed Library offers 219 cataloged seeds, allowing patrons to place holds on packets and have them shipped to any of the system’s 27 branches.
Hernandez’s leadership built the Seed Library into an “enormous, vibrant network” of community gardens, garden clubs, and groups working to beautify neighborhoods, create local food sustainability, and more, says Jennifer Nichols, a PCPL senior librarian. “Under Justine’s care, it is so much more than drawers of seeds.”
Hernandez says that seed lending rekindles community relationships and emphasizes the value of sharing. “The Seed Library has enabled us to talk from a place of experience about the public library’s ability to engage our community in new ways and to recognize what our community is telling us it needs to be successful and vibrant,” Hernandez says.