The Gift of Giving: Craft-Centered Programming for the Whole Community at the Cedar Falls Public Library

image of photo collage of hand-painted plates, hand-stamped gift bags, and hand-stitched deer ornaments made by children at their library

Written by Chelsea Rider – Reference Librarian, Cedar Falls Public Library

I am not a “crafty” person.  I have interest (and a shelf full of half-finished creations to prove it), but I possess all the skill of a moderately talented six-year old (see aforementioned abominations, I mean, creations).  As a librarian, that’s OK. I’m not expected to be an accomplished artist, because… books.  But then comes program planning.

When I ask myself what types of programs our patrons would want to see at our library, I find myself inexorably leaning toward crafting.  For participants, it’s fun to try new things and it’s exciting to explore a potential new hobby.  It’s rewarding to create something that you can take home with you, and it’s easy to let the library provide the materials and instruction.  That’s where the planning comes in.  (I’m still not an artist, but stick with me – I’m getting to it.)

The Cedar Falls Public Library is lucky enough to have an incredible group of Friends who provide a sizable budget for programming.  Still, cost-management is always at the forefront of my mind when I plan a program.  I’d rather splurge for supplies than pay an expensive instructor fee.  Enter, Creativebug.

Since our library already offers a subscription to our patrons, it’s simple (and free) to generate programs using the classes and resources available there.  I browse to get ideas and adapt what I find to make it suitable for our facilities. Or, I make it super-easy on myself and choose a class that I can use as-is.  Want to see some examples?  Keep reading!

Library Craft Program Ideas for the Holidays

Last winter, I decided to create some programs that would complement our town’s Holiday Hoopla (an annual month-long celebration here in Cedar Falls, Iowa).  Since CFPL exists to serve the needs of our entire community, we centered this holiday-themed program series on a universal and inclusive tradition of the season – gift-giving!

colorful graphic of library craft program schedule for the holidays from Cedar Falls Public Library

It consisted of four programs: Giving Plates, Stamped Drawstring Gift Bags, Hand-Stitched Felt Ornaments, and Origami Star Beads. All were adapted from Creativebug classes or printables. I structured most of them as walk-in maker programs that took place on Saturdays to coincide with town happenings.  Patrons could choose either a morning or afternoon session to work into their day of shopping, Santa visiting, eating/drinking, and general merry-making.

The Giving Plates program (where participants used acrylic markers to hand-paint large ceramic plates) was the most popular.  Using the CBTV presentation of this craft, I created a PDF of instructions along with some tips I gleaned from my efforts to create a sample plate (unsurprisingly, it was mostly “what not to do”).  Buying plates in bulk, purchasing refillable acrylic markers, and making my own stencils with the Cricut kept costs down. ~$6/participant and free to patrons, of course.

image of three hand-stitched felt deer ornaments and two Christmas tree ornaments as examples of library craft program ideas

The Hand-Stitched Felt Ornaments program was, in some ways, the easiest for me to plan. I had the Creativebug class playing on a loop for participants to follow along with as they came in.  No-sew options were available for kids (or anyone who wished to avoid the perils of needles). However, there was one memorable 8 year-old boy whose embroidery skills were lightyears ahead of mine.  (No, I do not harbor any lingering bitterness.  Why do you ask?)

Family, Creativity, and Community

Since we opened these programs up to families (as opposed to our usual practice of gearing programs toward either youth or adults), we ended up with a wide age range – from toddlers to a woman who celebrated her 90th birthday with us!  Watching such a diverse group interact as they applied their own unique touches to their creations was one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire year.

image of smiling child holding up a hand-stamped drawstring bag at the library
image of a white plate with blue line art made at a craft event at a library

I believe that libraries, as both hubs where communities gather and as repositories of accessible resources, offer an ideal setting for people to explore and create.  Offerings such as makerspaces, Creativebug, Library of Things, and diverse programming provide those opportunities.  Whether they’re an accomplished, experienced crafter or an aspiring novice who never quite mastered the use of scissors (don’t judge – those lines are squiggly and thin), people love making things!

Incorporating community events and goals into our programming and offerings is one of the ways the Cedar Falls Public Library serves and attracts its patrons.  Here in Iowa, we know that if you [give them the opportunity to] build it, they will come.  So, to my fellow non-artists, I say be brave! Give them a craft, and they will show up.

image of child holding a hand-painted giving plate at the library