It’s safe to say most of us have seen several “little libraries” scattered across the streets of Logan Square and other neighborhoods throughout the city, but have you noticed the little seed library on Spaulding Avenue just south of Fullerton Avenue?
On my typical walk home from the grocery store, I almost passed by the pale-yellow, wooden structure without a thought, but the delicately painted script spelling out “Seed Library” caught my attention. Inside there were small packets of herb and flower seeds, hand-labeled by Hannah Hirsekorn, the curator of Logan’s newest lending library.
Hirsekorn has been immersed in botany and ecology since her childhood. Her mother, who she described as a “little tiny hippy woman” from Northern California had Hirsekorn eating local dirt and thinking about the way we interact with Mother Nature since she could walk.
Photos: Evan Dye
Hirsekorn, who works at SAIC as a metal casting facility manager, was inspired by her own seed research and saw the value in nurturing and sustaining local biodiversity. She combined her passion for plants and her talent with welding and woodworking to create Chicago’s first Little Seed Library from recycled wood.
Getting Involved with the Seed Library
The library has had a slow start, but she has noticed growth in outreach and seed donation, Hirsekorn said. A handful of locals have direct messaged Hirsekorn on Instagram asking for planting advice, one of the most common concerns being where to plant. We Chicagoans have the blessing and curse of living in an urban space, but she explained that growing your own plants doesn’t require a garden.
“Herbs are a really good place to start,” said Hirsekorn. “A majority of them are ‘weeds,’ so they’re meant to survive.”
She has a collection of herbs on her fire escape, but she also suggests working with community gardens. She herself volunteers at the Altgeld/Sawyer Corner Farm. The space grows food for the Logan Square Christopher House, one of many charter schools for low-income/at-risk families and adults, across the street. Although most of the food is donated, any leftovers can be taken home by volunteers. Altgeld/Sawyer also offers composting services every Wednesday.
Photos: Evan Dye
Hirsekorn especially appreciates the cultural opportunities she has encountered through Altgeld/Sawyer. Two volunteers at the corner farm, Melissa Potter and Maggie Puckett, have shown Hirsekorn ways to engage with the community through a variety of programs at the garden. Two examples include Seeds InService and Women’s Health Garden, which foster feminism and responsible gardening. They also started a garden featuring plants and herbs native to the countries outcast by Trump’s travel ban.
“Foods and seeds are cultural preservation,” Hirsekorn poignantly noted.
Apart from her little library and volunteering at the community garden, Hirsekorn has also modified her blue pickup truck to operate as a mobile seed library. She travels to farmers markets and nearby events such as art shows to share seeds and hand-crafted herbal tea blends.
She is excited for the future of seed culture. She’s currently taking an online course called Seed Seva, which features, according to Hirsekorn, “indigenous knowledge and story-telling, and also biology and botany.” As for the Little Seed Library, she is hoping to host her own workshops about planting and has multiple requests from nearby states to supply them with little seed libraries.
By working with local planters and growers, and contributing on her own, Hirsekorn hopes to show Chicagoans that it’s more than just seeds. Instead, she said, “it’s a little act of rebellion to preserve the biodiversity we have left.”