August 18, 2008

Discuss. I give you a topic

I've gotten email and notes on Ravelry, and private messages and noise in the forums.. all, over this.

Children's knitting group turfed from library under new craft ban.

You can click on that to read the article, and I hope you will before we go any further, and I hope you do, because it's easier to discuss things with people who know what you're talking about. In short, (but do go read it) a library in Eastern Ontario has decided to shift more of it's activities towards literacy, and this means that they will not be using their resources to run a knitting club any more. Actually, they are not going to do any arts and crafts at all.

Now, I've been hearing a tremendous amount of noise about this. Tremendous, and I wasn't going to write about it at all (on account of I don't run the library) and because most of the mail I was getting was along the lines of "Stephanie, please organize a march with flaming torches in which we all go down to the library and right all wrongs in the name of knitting." which... I'm sure it will shock you... I'm not really inclined to do.

Let's lay down the arguments, and have a proper debate, shall we?
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Points made against the Library by lots of people who have emailed me.

Knitting is good for the human brain, therefore, discouraging children from doing it is wrong, no matter what the setting.

The library is a community space, and the community should define its use.

The children were being very good, so who does it hurt?

Anything that gets kids into libraries is good - even if it's not about reading.

Many education systems, (notably Waldorf schools) believe (as I do) that reading and knitting are linked activities for the human brain, and that engaging in one, supports the other. Besides, knitting has pattern reading, which is sort of about reading.

Knitting good. Lady stopping knitting bad.

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Points made for the library by... well... me. Though I'm sure there're others.

All activities run in the library take up space and staff. Since the library is not a community centre, but a municipal service to promote literacy, they don't have a responsibility to do arts and crafts with the kids.

A library deciding to focus on literacy is not really all that shocking or wrong.

Even if knitting and literacy are connected (and frankly, as much as I wish it were not true, there's little proof), the knitting club was only appealing to a few girls, and the library needs to shift its programme to something with broader appeal.

If the library makes an exception for the knitting club, they have to make exceptions for all the other crafts programmes at all the other branches, because who says those other kids don't love and enjoy the value in their crafts too? I don't think there's any way to put back what one group loves without putting back what all kids love, and then .. well. They haven't managed to change anything, which they must be doing for a reason.

Finally, the manager of library services has said, "If they want to knit in the library, why not formulate a book club and knit as you discuss a book?" This seems to me to be some sort of evidence that the woman is not on a personal mission to obliterate knitting or make little girls suffer, but instead seems sort of hung up on this whole "the library should be about books and reading" thing, which isn't really that terrible, is it?

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I'm the same sort of knitter as most of you. I think that knitting is really valuable, and really important, and has far more significance than most mortals know. I also think that there is almost no place and no time when knitting isn't appropriate.... but this isn't what we're talking about here - is it? What we're talking about is asking a library to run a programme that isn't about books or literacy, and use their time, space and staff to do it.

The library hasn't, in the end, "banned" knitting, as I've heard... they've moved their programme, for which they have a municipal budget, closer to their mandate. They aren't a community centre. They haven't asked people not to knit in the library, they've said they won't pay for it... and more than that, they've said that if the little girls will give their knitting club a bookish bent, then they are welcome to carry on. Now, I don't know about you, but I think that asking the little knitting club to discuss a book each week while they knit, should they like to use the library (rather than a community centre or a home) isn't exactly an offence that qualifies as child abuse or a crime against our grand and venerable art.

When I've thought about all of that (and worked through the little bit of anger I had because I do think knitting is just that valuable) I have to wonder...

Just because I don't like their policy... does that really make it terribly wrong?

Posted by Stephanie at August 18, 2008 10:15 AM