Crafting

Getting Crafty in the Library

Alice Nuttall

Senior Contributor

Alice Nuttall (she/her) is a writer, pet-wrangler and D&D nerd. Her reading has got so out of control that she had to take a job at her local library to avoid bankrupting herself on books - unfortunately, this has just resulted in her TBR pile growing until it resembles Everest. Alice's webcomic, writing and everything else can be found at https://linktr.ee/alicenuttallbooks

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One of my favourite things about my local library is the regular craft activities that it runs. Walking into the main part of the library, you often find yourself in front of several tables covered with paper, pens, glitter and stickers, with children and their families working on a craft, often following a particular theme – sometimes animals, sometimes Halloween decorations, and, most recently, Christmas crafts. The creativity on display can be astounding, and the enthusiasm is always off the charts.

Craft sessions might seem at odds with the traditional image of a library. They can be messy – glue and glitter are both notoriously difficult to keep under control, even when you’re an adult – and mess doesn’t generally mix with books. Young kids who are really getting into an activity are often quite vocal about it – “silence in the library” is impossible to maintain when you have a group of little ones who are excited about something they’re making. Fortunately, libraries have moved on since the old stereotype of people being shushed if they whisper too loudly. Nowadays, they’re important community centres, and more than able to withstand a little mess and noise, especially in the spirit of encouraging children’s creativity.

My local library isn’t the only one that has embraced crafting sessions as a way to bring in local kids. Having library-based arts and crafts meet-ups has become so widespread that there are a large number of websites and resources available for anyone wanting to start crafting sessions in their local library, whether you’re library staff or a community member looking for a place to set up a new scheme.

Three people's hands are cutting and folding paper flowers on a table. On the table, there are several other paper flowers in blue and red, as well as some green paper leaves. There are some colourful sheets of paper, and two green cutting boards.
Image from Pixabay

Kid-Friendly Crafting

If you want to set up a craft session for children, there are plenty of options you can choose, ranging from the simple to the more complex. Very young kids will love anything where they can work with colourful paper, pens and glitter, especially if there’s a fun theme. Setting children up with recognisable cut-out shapes, like animals, stars or holiday wreaths, can give them a helpful starting point that still gives them plenty of scope to use their imagination. Crafts like this involve little teaching, making them more accessible to a wide age range, and older children can draw on techniques they’ve already learned to add complexity to a simple task.

If you have a little more time for teaching, there are some more specific crafts you can set up. Making pipe cleaner animals can be a low-cost and fun activity, and, as with drawing and colouring, kids of different ages and skill levels can adapt it, making it easier or more elaborate as they wish.

In a library setting, book-themed crafts are always a great idea. Children can make bookmarks that they can use for their reading – either simple strips of card that they can draw on, or higher skill level ideas such as a cat bookmark that can hang over the edge of the pages.

Older children, or younger ones with some supervision, can even try making their own books. The British Library has a tutorial on how to make mini-books that can easily be adapted for different themes – kids can make comic books, seasonal books, or even put together their own tiny novels.

Crafting for Adults

Children aren’t the only people who can benefit from arts and crafts sessions in the library. Setting up gatherings for adults can help combat loneliness for older people, or be a low-stress social activity for adults of all ages. In the current climate, where living expenses are soaring, attending a craft session at a library can allow people to stay warm, take part in a free or low-cost activity, and socialise in a supportive community environment.

I might be biased, as knitting is one of my favourite hobbies, but yarn-based crafts are always a solid idea for a library arts and crafts activity. Knitting and crochet can be tricky to learn, but, being popular skills, there are often experienced people in a group who can help out the beginners. There are plenty of guides out there for people who want to learn to teach others the basics, which can be printed out for the group.

A pair of hands knitting a small, light blue square.
Image from Pixabay

Other crafts that can be set up for adults include card-making and other kinds of papercrafting; jewellery-making; or crafting decorations. Some libraries set up specific crafting sessions, while others, such as Goffstown Public Library, have created ‘Take and Make’ projects that people can work on at the library or in their own homes. Projects like this give people a chance to learn new creative skills, and potentially find a new hobby that they enjoy.

For more ideas for bookish crafts, try out article on Fun DIY Bookmarking Ideas for a Quick Crafting Session. ARCs can be excellent materials for crafting – find out what to do with them in our article on 5 Ways to Upcycle Your ARCs.