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Michigan State University

Thomas Volkening Seed Library at MSU Libraries

The MSU Library Seed Library is a publicly accessible place to pick-up some seeds for vegetable, herb and flower growing.

Dedication to Tom

Tom Volkening at a MSU Library Party in 2016
Photo: Carolyn Shein, 2016.

Thomas Volkening was the MSU Libraries Engineering librarian for over 40 years. Tom was also an avid gardener and a founding member of the Seed Library team. Tom grew a lush garden at his home with heirloom vegetable varieties, a small fruit orchard, and flowers all over the place. In spring he planted and tended dozens of different seeds, planted most, then distribute extra seedlings to his colleagues. In summer he'd share his harvests, both fresh from the garden and mixed into delicious baked goods.

Tom took his responsibility to the Seed Library seriously and with joy. He was our primary seed selector - searching seed catalogs and online businesses for Michigan grown seed and varieties relevant to the Great Lakes region. You could hear the exuberance in his voice during our meetings describing the values of his discoveries and guiding the discussion on what we should distribute that season.

Tom retired from MSU Libraries in August 2022 and heartbreakingly passed just a few months later. The decision to dedicate the Seed Library to him came quickly, and on March 1, 2023 we held a naming ceremony in his honor.

At the ceremony, Interim Dean Terri Miller said the following,

"But I think at a deeper level, naming the Seed Library after Tom is even more appropriate because the Seed Library represents what Tom was as a person.  The Seed Library represents quiet generosity: we offer these seed to the community with full generosity: take what you need and grow them as you can. We don’t ask you about your seed growing ability, or make sure that you have the time, space, soil, or skill to grow something from them. We offer the generosity of giving the seeds, and the encouragement that you will be successful with them in whatever way that means: From successfully finding out that the local squirrels will eat all of the tomatoes that you tried to grow, or from successfully finding out that planting 30 tomato plants yields so many tomatoes that you have made many new friends by giving them away. Tom shared those successes (in all forms) with us, through his pictures on Facebook as well as through the bounty he frequently brought in to work for all of us to enjoy.  He was quietly generous with his knowledge of seeds, with his hard work growing and nurturing those seeds and through the bounty they provided to all of us."

The Thomas Volkening Seed Library is a living testament to him, his values and is carried forward to the Spartan community.

Tom's tomatoes on the vine Tom's seven pawpaw fruits on the tree Brown tub of blackberries, circular bowl of strawberries, brown tub of a variety of cherry tomatoes

Photos: Tom Volkening. Left: His cherry tomatoes on the vine; Middle: pawpaws ripening on the tree; Right: Shared harvest.

Thank you

The MSU Library Seed Library was made possible with funding from a 2019-2020 MSU Library Microgrant and the Giuliani Endowment for Library and Information Resource Provision in support of Lifelong Learning.

The Seed Library Committee consists of Eric Tans, Suzi Teghtmeyer, Stephanie Perentesis and Jodi Coalter. Grant writing was greatly assisted by Lia Spaniolo.

The Committee deeply thanks our supporters:

MSU Bailey Greenhouse and Urban Farm

MSU Beal Botanical Garden

MSU Campus Archaeology

MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and subsequent departments

MSU Extension

MSU Residential Hospitality Service and the 1855 Place community garden project

MSU Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment 

MSU Student Organic Farm

American Indian Health and Family Services in Detroit

Capital Area District Libraries (CADL) 

East Lansing Public Libraries

Library of Michigan 

Lansing Food Bank Garden Project

Michigan Seed Library Network