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Family fun: Library crafting programs drawing people together

At the Austin Public Library, families huddled around tables inside the Programming Room on Tuesday night for some festive crafting.

Jingle bells, tinsel and pinecones littered the tabletops and hot glue guns squirted globs of adhesive onto the various sweaters brought by the families. From cable knit sweaters to long-sleeved cotton shirts, each piece of clothing received a touch of the Christmas spirit.

Bringing her granddaughters out for a night of fun, Cathy Hemann-Winsky of Austin busied herself with hot gluing a star ornament to the front of her sweatshirt. She giggled alongside Kadince Winsky, 11, Aubree Miles, 9, and Mea Miles, 6, who laughed at their grandmother’s creation.

“I’m gonna put big eyes on mine!” Aubree said while twirling around with her pink sweater. It had pom poms and stickers running up and down the sleeves. “Grandma, can we take a picture?”

Jessica Lind, youth services librarian, helps an attendee with her ugly Christmas sweater.

This was the type of event that Hemann-Winsky felt was lacking in Austin. Although there are kid-friendly events, there seemed to be a shortage of opportunities for pre-teens.

“Either they’re too old to be a part of the program, or they’re too young to join the bigger kids,” Hemann-Winsky admitted. “It’s a lot of fun attending these events. This is a very kid-friendly library. It’s a nice, short little thing we can do together. I love doing this fun stuff with my grandkids.”

Although this is the first time that APL hosted an ugly sweater craft night, this isn’t their first time bringing in the public for some crafting opportunities. Last time, they created wreaths for the holidays and there was a Harry Potter themed night where the children got to be sorted into different houses and created potions.

“That one was really popular,” said Jessica Lind, youth librarian. “We try to make all the events accessible to all ages. We try to get them all together at least once a month.”

Aubree Miles, 9, works hard to decorate her ugly Christmas sweater during a crafting program at the Austin Public Library. She used stickers, puffy paint and ribbon to make it as “ugly” as possible.

When hosting a craft night, the library staff pulls up Pinterest on their laptops and iPads so that their groups can get some inspiration for their creations. There was even a time when the staff created pumpkins out of wine corks for Halloween, creating wind chimes out of old CDs and made new things out of water bottles.

During these crafting events, there’s the goal of building and creating art out of things that are recyclable, said Courtney Wyant, adult services librarian. She noted that the overall purpose of hosting these craft nights was to bring the community together and do something that’s free and accessible to everyone.

“We want people to socialize and meet each other,” Wyant said. “It’s definitely a stress reliever for some and get a sense of accomplishment from doing something. These kids don’t get as much art in school and it’s kind of forgotten about. We’re trying to fill that need.”

The number of participants vary from event to event. Lind shared that during the summer, they’d easily get around 2,500 visitors throughout the season. Some events brought in around 86 people such as their gingerbread house building program last year, and other times, it would be more intimate with maybe around 10 people attending events.

County Administrator Trish Harren shows off the sweater she created for the craft night held at the Austin Public Library. She planned to wear it to a staff Christmas party and enter the ugly sweater contest.

“It really depends on what we do,” she said. “We like to do things for everyone. It’s really amazing to see how creative everyone can get. We host different programs every month. I love seeing the kids get excited and pumped for arts and crafts. They’re really amazing and their excitement is contagious.”

This feeling seems to be shared by the attendees at the event. Mea and Aubree ran to get their photos taken in their sweaters. County Administrator Trish Harren also pulled on her ugly sweater made with tinsel and pom poms. She felt especially festive taking photos in front of the library’s fireplace.

When asked whether she’d wear her sweater to a Mower County Board meeting Harren laughed.

“It’s just really fun,” she said. “We do have an ugly sweater contest at the county’s Christmas party. Maybe I’ll win!”

A craft night attendee created a neckline out of ornaments during the Austin Public Library’s crafting event.