Adult Arts and Crafts at the Library (and 5 Cool Projects to Get You Started)

Steph Waite, Communications Coordinator /

Introverts around the world will relate to Adult Services Librarian, Elizabeth Koenig’s inspiration for starting an arts and crafts program for adults at her library. “I’d done various art parties in my home for friends and had found I really preferred them to the more awkward (for me) sit-down dinner parties.”

Her in-home art parties were so well received among her friends that she pitched the idea to her supervisor as a program at the Everett Public Library in Washington state. Koenig launched the monthly program, called Create @ the Library, in 2014 when she was the children’s liaison looking to launch an adult-focused program. She was joined later by Library Page and arts and crafts aficionada, JoAnna Thomas. They have led about 40 programs together.

How It Works

Create @ the Library is held on the first Thursday of every month from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, and attracts retired community members and many others who return again and again to participate.

Koenig and Thomas are great partners who play to their strengths. Thomas has an interest in arts and crafts, and has done everything from watercolor to soapmaking. She’s also an avid cook and baker, and a photography enthusiast. Koenig shines when it comes to planning and logistics. She makes sure they have the supplies they need and that they are set up for the event. Koenig also does the presentation while Thomas mingles with participants one-on-one, walking them through challenging steps, sharing ideas, and just chatting.

Together they plan a year of programming each fall, and have found this is easier than trying to plan and budget every quarter. Koenig buys the supplies throughout the year so she can take advantage of seasonal sales and coupons. They’re funded by their Friends of the Library group, which reimburses their purchases.

Thomas suggests offering crafts that use a variety of media. “I think one thing that keeps the program going is the variety offered. We don’t just stick to paper crafts or clay projects. We mix it up. Once a year we try to do one clay craft, one paper craft, or a mixed media craft. This way it doesn’t get boring. For example, some participants may not like to work with clay, so they will not come to that particular class.”

This crafty duo also suggests making the project in advance and taking photos at each step, then using the photos to create a step-by-step slide presentation. “It’s nice when we can do an easier project in between the harder projects. We’re not experts in these programs, and a lot of them we have never done before. Some projects we will have a get together with a few people or a staff party and do a run-through to figure out some of the kinks,” says Thomas. When it comes time to present the program, Koenig runs the presentation from the front of the room while Thomas provides hands-on assistance. You can access the Prezi presentations of their most popular programs below.

Koenig cautions enthusiastic library staff against burnout. “Because I love this program and want to keep it going, I have had to force myself to stop doing prep work at home. If you can’t do it all at work, choose an easier project.” She admits that she occasionally allows herself to make samples at home because she enjoys the process of making art.

Why Start This Program?

An adult arts and crafts program is an opportunity to encourage creativity in a safe, welcoming space, within the context of a guided program, for people who may have found themselves long ago disconnected from their own creativity. It may seem counterintuitive to offer guidelines to creativity, but the rising popularity of paint-your-own-pottery classes and paint-and-wine nights illustrates that sometimes it just takes a little push to unlock one’s inner artist.

The community's feedback on Create @ the Library has been positive and meaningful. One participant said it changed her life by helping her get in touch with her own creativity after a lifetime of thinking the opposite. “I had a friend who did one of our first projects that was flowers and watercolor,” Thomas says. “My friend said to me later, ‘I never knew I could draw.’ She liked her picture so much that she had it framed and it is hanging on the wall in her dining room.” Another participant went home and made more of the project they’d worked on that day and sold them at their neighborhood craft show.

5 Projects to Get You Started

The project ideas below are just a sampling of the vibrant, creative arts and crafts sessions that Everett Public Library has offered. These are some of their favorites, but you can see the full list of projects along with the presentations in this PDF. Elizabeth posted her arts and crafts programming ideas in the Facebook group, Programming Librarian Interest Group, which is a great resource for further inspiration.

  1. Mod Mosaics
    This project is best done outdoors because it involves cement, so choose your timing wisely. The glass was donated to the library by a local stained glass shop, and molds were purchased.
    Watch the Mod Mosaics Prezi.

  2. Clay Flowers and Owls
    Great starter clay project that uses clay, rolled out and decorated. This is a two-session project—one for rolling out and stamping the clay, and one for glazing and re-firing.
    Watch the Clay Flowers and Owls Prezi on rolling out and stamping the clay.
    Watch the Glazing Prezi.

  3. Hypertufa Planters
    Another fun outdoor project using cement and natural materials.
    Watch the Hypertufa Prezi.

  4. Soapmaking
    This project uses a melt-and-pour soap base along with vibrant colors and fragrances that can be combined and melted in thrift store slow cookers.
    Watch the Melt-and-Pour Soapmaking Prezi.

  5. Sunset Silhouettes
    Participants used India ink, and watercolor to create these colorful, striking paintings. The ink needs plenty of drying time, so allow for that in the planning process.
    Watch the Sunset Silhouettes Prezi.
Photo credits: Top image, sunset and Mod Mosaics: Elizabeth Koenig. Bottom image, soap: JoAnna Thomas.