Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Crafting: It's not just about the duct tape

If you do craft programs at your library, you know it's a great way to bring people in and bump up your attendance statistics.  But crafting and libraries are an ideal match for many less selfish reasons as well.  As National Craft Month comes to a close, let's reflect on what crafts can bring to the lives of our teens and our relationships with them, and how this aligns with the mission of libraries.

Crafting builds community

"Let's build something together" "You can build it; we can help" It's no coincidence that slogans advertising building and creation often invoke a community effort.  Creating something is not a solitary pursuit any more than reading is.  We may do it alone, but even so, we do it within the framework of an entire community of support and shared interest.  Look at the prevalence of craft blogs and the wide network of followers these blogs attract.  Look at the popularity of knitting groups.  Look back to the traditions of quilting bees, barn raisings, and community gardens.  People want to come together to make things because making things together ties us to each other, to a place, to the process, to the product.

 

Crafting is learning

If you've ever had a craft FAIL, you know full well that crafting is not just an activity, but a process.  You try, you fail, you try, you improve, you try, you succeed.  Crafting in libraries can show teens that in an increasingly outcome oriented society, it's the trying that counts and that trying is where the fun begins.  Contemporary libraries that are thriving are doing so by being places people come to grow and learn and succeed.  Whether this happens through using test prep databases or attending resume workshops or participating in book discussions or making digital videos and computer programs or hand puppets and duct tape wallets, libraries are providing paths to success.  Paths to success - not just one - because like our patrons and our collections, our programs need to be diverse, striving to meet the many needs of our diverse patrons.  Bringing teens together to create in the library legitimizes this activity, just like maintaining a video game, graphic novel, paperback romance, or foreign language collection legitimizes those pursuits.  It demonstrates that being creative and making things is worthwhile, and that we want to share in their discovery and creative process.

 

Crafting is real

When we connect crafts to novels, like making a Mockingjay pin out of polymer clay, or a Steampunk inspired journal, or use gold balloons to make Golden Snitch stress balls, we extend the fictional worlds teens love to inhabit into our real world in a tangible way.  For those teens for whom fiction holds little appeal, using hands to create real, useful, practical items may be a more logical choice.  Crafting using repurposed or found items is a creative way to inexpensively meet otherwise expensive needs, and involves the trappings and cast-offs from our real world in new and pleasing ways.  Libraries offer workshops on gardening, organizing, home cooking, and investing - why not consider craft workshops for teens as the adolescent version of these home economics themed programs?  Additionally, the need to develop and enhance fine motor skills doesn't end when storytime ends, and crafts are one way to continue to encourage this developmental task in a fun way.

 

Crafting is fun

True, this is subjective.  But consider the number of programs we have, just "because it will be fun"?  LOTS!  And we have these "just for fun" programs because we know they come packaged with numerous other benefits: high attendance, yes, but they're fun for a reason too.  They cater to interests and strengths that patrons have.  They provide a social outlet and connection for like-minded people.  They connect to materials in our collection.  They remind people that the library understands that fun is important, that learning can be fun, and that when they come to the library, we want them to enjoy themselves.

 

Crafting is lifelong learning

Our library hosts a knitting club.  Every other week, a group of women gathers and shares cookies and their progress and projects.  They encourage each other.  They knit for each other.  They teach each other.  Some just began knitting, but many learned in their childhood and have been honing their skills on and off ever since.  I often practice potential craft projects with my preschool aged children at home, then present them to adults, and then adapt them for an teen audience.  Crafting crosses generational lines.  One of the regulars at my adult craft group confided to me that she loves it when a craft is one that her teenaged daughter likes too because it's one of the only things she wants to do with her mom anymore.  The storytime kids parade out of the library with faces full of sunshine and arms full of projects.  The adult crafters show off their creations as table centerpieces at holiday meals.  Making something tangible is satisfying.  Why deny teens that same satisfaction?  

Crafting is also creativity, problem solving, innovation and more.  Crafting is asset building, skills building, and confidence building.  Crafting is a great thing for our libraries.So craft away.

-Heather

3 comments:

  1. We have a Finish It Club at our library. I've been teaching them slightly more complicated crafts the day before and then they can finish it the next day. Both programs have different flavors. At the more intensive one, they are hunkered down, trying to learn. At the second one, they feel more confident and often ask if they can do the craft again. (They are killing me on embroidery supplies. They love it. Whenever we are in the same room as the supplies, they ask if they can embroider.)

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  2. I love this idea! How often do you meet?

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  3. We meet twice a month. Last year we met every week but it falls on the same day as storytime and a night we're open, so scheduling got really tricky. I only do one intensive class a month so they can use both sessions to finish their craft. The Finish It Club is my favorite program right now. The teens are engaged but comfortable and if they see something that someone else is doing that they don't know how to do, they ask to learn. It feels like magic.

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