From the Wikipedia:
"A seed library is an institution that lends or shares seed. It is distinguished from a seedbank in that the main purpose is not to store or hold germplasm or seeds against possible destruction, but to disseminate them to the public which preserves the shared plant varieties through propagation and further sharing of seed.Seed libraries usually maintain their collections through donations from members. but may also operate as pure charity operations intent on serving gardeners and farmers. A common attribute of many seed libraries is to preserve agricultural biodiversity by focusing on rare, local, and heirloom seed varieties.
Seed libraries use varied methods for sharing seeds, primarily by:
- seed swaps, in which library members or the public meet and exchange seeds
- seed "lending," in which people check out seed from the library's collection, grow them, save the seed, and return seed from the propagated plants to the library
Seed libraries may function as programs of regular libraries, such as the program of the Richmond Public Library in California; or museums, such as the Hull-House Heirloom Seed Library, a program of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Some have developed as programs of botanical gardens, such as that of the VanDusen Botanical Garden, or from gardening associations and research institutes, such as the Heritage Seed Library of Garden Organic. Other seed libraries have evolved from community sustainability or resilience efforts, such as the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (the United States' oldest seed library, which developed from the Berkeley, California Ecology Center); and still others from the Slow Food movement, such as Grow Gainesville's seed program." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seed_library)