Wacoans find artistic expression, community in the stacks

Every Thursday from 4 to 5:30 p.m., the West Waco Library opens its craft to Waco teenagers for a unique crafting opportunity. Photo courtesy of Waco-McLennan County Library

For Waco students aged 11 to 17, the West Waco Library now offers a place to explore artistic expression. Every Thursday from 4 to 5:30 p.m., the library’s “Teen Zone” opens its doors and its craft cabinets to teenagers, and offers a unique crafting opportunity each week.

The goal, as teen librarian Rachel Maclin said, is to get teens involved at the library, and to help teens become more comfortable with their creative side. “I started up crafternoon with the new school year this year, so I started it this August,” Maclin said. “I want to increase their confidence in being able to create things on their own.”

So far, the center has welcomed between four and five teens each week, and the students have been fairly consistent in their attendance. The projects they work on are hands-on, and fairly simple, so the teens can finish them within an hour. Maclin said some of her favorite projects she led the teens through have been an origami book hedgehogs, as well as pom-pom bookmarks.

“We’ve just started, so it’s a lot of paper crafts, and a lot of go, go, go,” Maclin said.

Maclin is looking to grow the program, and hopes that more kids come through the library doors. And Maclin is not the only librarian searching for an outlet to grow their community. Community services supervisor Jessica Emmett focuses on how to encourage Wacoans to use the library’s resources, and she’s found plenty of ways to do it. “We want to make sure the library is integrated into the community as much as possible, and that we’re able to look at what the community’s goals are and how the library can be part of the solution to some of the community’s problems out there,” Emmett said.

Emmett goes to community events like the Waco Downtown Farmers Market and offers more information about what services the library provides. “Public libraries are obviously open to everybody, so we get a little bit of everyone,” Emmett said. “We get everything from really young kids and young families to senior citizens and pretty much everyone in between.”

Emmett and the supervisory staff hope that with Maclin heading the teen program at the West Waco Library, they can continue engaging with a previously inconsistent audience on a more constant level.

The Waco libraries offer much more than just books and teen programs, however. If the free and unlimited wifi and access to free computers wasn’t enough, they offer book clubs and children’s story time as well. Emmett said that through her job she brings awareness about these services to people who most likely wouldn’t know about the library’s opportunities otherwise.

“Fall is a pretty busy time,” Emmett said. “We’ve got our genealogy lock in, where people can come and learn a whole lot about their family history, which is kind of going to be an all day event, and then we’ve also got a halloween carnival at the end of October, which is going to be a big event.”
The Waco library system offers plenty of opportunities for the Waco community, and Baylor students are not left out. Emmett shared that not only are all of the services the library offers available to students, but if students sign up for a free library card, they also get access to the book checkout options, and get free passes to several of the museums in town, including the Mammoth site.

“We always have a ton of students here around finals time,” Emmett said. Check out the Waco Libraries’ website for more student opportunities and Waco art and life events.