Patterns of Best Practice: Librarians Help Teens Make Tight-Knit Connections

Article excerpt

One of my quietly treasured possessions is a 20-year-old pair of hand-knitted socks. Lest you think I've suddenly gone Dobby on you, let me explain: These plain white socks, made of admittedly declasse acrylic rather than all-natural wool, are the last pair my grandmother gave me. This well-worn footwear marks the end of a tradition, as my youthful winter wardrobe featured socks my grandmothers made as they sat together in the evening, talking in Polish and knitting.

So I come by my interest in knitting honestly, if rather late, having missed the initial Stitch 'n Bitch craze and most of its immediate sequels. Long before I took needles in hand, knitting became cool with libraries' teen groups, prompted by works like Shannon Okey's Knitgrrl and Wegner, et. al's Teen Knitting Club: Chill Out and Knit. Okey, who wrote an article in the Spring 2005 Young Adult Library Services and hosts a page for librarians at knitgrrl.com, notes knitting's potential for fostering the sorts of social connections and skill building that library programs for teens aspire to create.

Knitting-mania endures in many librarians' repertoires for engaging teens. Among the knitting programs and clubs hosted by and thriving at libraries, one that links fiber craft and philanthropy takes place at the East Valley branch of the Escondido (Calif.) Public Library.

There, Youth Services Librarian Joanna Axelrod revitalized a teen knitting group sponsored by the Friends of the Library by extending its service outreach. Now known as Crafty CATS (short for Community Action TeenService), these young people knit for others, including babies at the local Palomar Hospital. During Mother's Day week, they distribute knitted caps for newborns, board books, and literacy materials for parents, according to branch manager Jeff Wyner.

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Heart-warming work

"Knitting is promoted here purely as a service project," Wyner said. A knitter himself, he has worked with the Crafty CATS, which has been around for at least five years. …