A Crafty Librarian Manifesto
When I started telling Gayle about what I wanted to include on this blog, craft ideas were at the top of my list. It’s hard thinking of crafts you can do that are:
- cool (meaning it doesn’t look like something that should be part of a children’s storytime, but is actually something teens would want to make);
- you can do in a group;
- you can do in less than an hour or so;
- don’t require any special equipment like a sewing machine or a drill (unless you maybe work in Berkeley);
- don’t require any special skills;
- did I mention cheap?
So in order to remember those crafts that made me say, “Hey, this was/would be such a great program!” and for anyone else struggling to find good crafty ideas to use with teens, I thought it would be fun to have a “Crafty Librarian” feature on the blog.
I admit that the main reason I first started holding craft programs was because my branch manager wanted me to have one Young Adult program a month, and crafts seemed like the easiest way to go. After all, our Children’s Librarian is a scrapbooker and pretty crafty. And no worrying about having an audience for an invited guest (like the generously counted six or so of us, including me, for our Teen Read Week storyteller last year), no signup sheets (which the teens either won’t sign up for but then show up, or will sign up for and not show up), just me and some craft supplies. I still sometimes wonder if perhaps I’m taking the easy way out by doing mostly crafts instead of, oh, an anime prom. But the more I thought about it, the more important I started to think crafts were.
When I was in school, I was not an artsy person. Sure, I wanted to create things (I remember wanting to learn how to knit in high school), but in school we had art. Which meant that you got a grade. And I am so not artistic. Yeah, sometimes in After School Programs you got to create things, and that was fun, but around the time you started worrying about grades, you no longer had any After School Programs to go to and get crafty in. It wasn’t until I went to a college that had a craft center and cheap (mostly under $20) non-credit semester-long classes that I felt free to be creative. And even though it’s less than ten years later now and the craft renaissance is in full swing, it still seems like it’s a lot easier to be an adult and crafty or to try to get your kid to be crafty than it is to be a crafty teen.
So what do crafts and libraries have to do with each other, besides the fact that craft books can be pretty pricey but you can borrow them from the library? In public libraries, we support lifelong learning, and obviously learning does not need to be limited to school or work. You can learn to cook, learn to use a computer, learn a craft… Besides, learning you are capable of creating something and getting the chance to create something in a no-pressure environment, without having to pay for materials and supplies for something you’re just interested in trying and not necessarily committing to is, to me, just as valid a reason for using the library as borrowing a book or using the internet. If a teen comes to a program and borrows a book, that’s just a bonus. But to leave the library with something you’ve created, to know that you are can create something, that it can be fun, that you were able to indulge your creative side–that is the most important part.
Agree? Disagree? Is this an overjustification to make myself feel better? Either way, the staff at my library and I all agree that the teens are way more creative than we are.