Image of seed packets, Shutterstock

The Basalt Public Library in Colorado has added a seed bank to its collection of books, CDs and other media in order to attract more readers, NPR reports. Visitors who collect books can be growers too by simply renting out a package of seeds and harvesting seeds from the resulting fruit and vegetables. And it turns out that at least one dozen public libraries across the United States are doing the same thing.

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Image of red carrots, Shutterstock

Seeds are stored in envelopes with labels depicting the names of the fruit or vegetable, such as “cosmic purple carrots” or “atomic red carrots,” along with the name of the person who harvested them. This gives people credit for what are hard-earned crops in Colorado, where the cold and poor soil quality makes growing food a challenge.

It’s simple to participate: simply check out a package of seeds and plant them. Once the seeds become full blown atomic red carrots, people harvest the seeds and return them to the library so that another person can use them. According to Stephanie Syson, who NPR interviewed at the Basalt library, it’s important to harvest seeds from the most resilient plants that can withstand pests and drought.

The Director Barbara Milnor told NPR that it’s hard to get people interested in books in the digital era, so the seeds are simply another “selling” point. “You have to be fleet of foot if you’re going to stay relevant, and that’s what the big problem is with a lot of libraries, is relevancy,” she says.