Our Library

The Robert Becker Memorial Library, located at Heritage Farm, supports the research needs of our staff and members.

The library holds a collection of about 6,000 volumes representing topics in agriculture, horticulture, and biodiversity, and is an institutional member of the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries.

Services

  • Reference - The Librarian is available to answer questions and direct research, and assist with interlibrary loan/document delivery services related to reference requests.

  • Personal research time for SSE members - Any current paying member of SSE is allowed to utilize the research services of the librarian for 15 minutes at no charge. Reimbursement for time over 15 minutes is based on a fee schedule.

  • Borrowing - Library materials in the General collection may be checked out by Seed Savers Exchange staff, board members, and advisers. Borrowing privileges are also extended to currently enrolled Luther College students. Members of the general public are welcome to use materials in the library for on-site research, though use of rare books and special collection materials is by permission only.

  • Interlibrary Loan - All borrowers may request from the Librarian materials via interlibrary loan. This includes article scans, which may incur a small fee imposed by the lending library.

  • Wireless Access - A wireless network is available for public use. Please note you must provide your own laptop with wireless card. Printers are not configured to your laptop, and headphones are required for silent listening to ensure others are not disturbed. Technical support is not provided for wireless service.

  • Library Catalog - The library’s online public access catalog (named “Roscoe” for a beloved Heritage Farm dog) may be accessed directly from any computer with internet access.

Collection Scope

Library materials range in genre from technical information to literary works, with the primary subjects of the following:

  • Gardening and related activities
  • Preservation of heirloom garden and orchard varieties
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Environmental conservation
  • Genetic diversity in cultivated plants and livestock
  • Historical agricultural and horticultural literature

Special Collections

Becker Library’s Special Collections include over 1,500 volumes with publication dates as early as the 16th century.

  • Historical sources containing time-tested techniques for everything from cider-making to the development of natural fertilizers
  • 1,000 pre-1950 seed catalogs serving as a rich resource for both textual and visual information on historical varieties
  • SSE organizational archives and publications collections, from the earliest mimeographed True Seed Exchange mailings (1975-76) to the latest issue of The Heritage Farm Companion
  • Oversized fruit and vegetable postcards from the early 20th century-humorously manipulated photographic images meant to entice visitors to a given region by impressing them with the size of the fruits and vegetables in the area

Digitized Special Collections

Included in SSE’s digital collections are the following:

  • SSE’s complete publications
  • Photographic collections by notable SSE Board members David Cavagnaro and Rosalind Creasy
  • Artwork by Judith Griffith, illustrator of many SSE publication covers
  • Commercial seed catalog covers and other artwork from vintage catalogs
  • David J. Thompson varietal research collection

About Robert F. Becker

Born in New Jersey on August 9, 1931, Robert F. Becker received his undergraduate degree in horticulture from the University of New Hampshire in 1954 and his Master’s degree in botany from UNH in 1956. He worked on his PhD in horticulture at the University of Missouri, then spent two years in the military.

In 1959 he became a County Agricultural Agent in Ontario County, NY, and was later appointed to the position of Extension Specialist for vegetables in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, where he served for 16 years.

Becker was deeply respected and admired by vegetable farmers in New York and among his peers throughout the nation. He was in widespread demand nationally as a speaker at vegetable production meetings. In 1986, he was promoted to Associate Professor in the Dept. of Horticultural Sciences and was the recipient of several awards for his distinguished service to the profession. He retired in 1992.

Becker was a member and good friend of Seed Savers Exchange. After his death in 1996, Becker’s family donated his private library - containing many important historical works on vegetables as well as Becker’s research on heirloom varieties - to Seed Savers Exchange.

SSE’s library was dedicated as the Robert Becker Memorial Library on October 11, 1998.