Moving Past the Minutiae: The Scope of What I’ve Been Creating

I was recently asked to help a grad student with a project he’s working on and when I wrote my response to him I was SO struck by not only the sheer quantity of the work I do but how proud I am of the quality of each of these experiences. I get distracted by those day to day details that have a tendency to sneak in and rule all of our worlds from time to time. The problem you solve only to discover your solution created another problem. The promise you make that results in working on your day off because you miscalculated. I care so much about my work that I will occasionally let it rule my decisions and emotions both inside AND outside of work. This is not only detrimental to my performance at work but to the person I am outside of library world. My husband picks up on my distractions and it makes him feel ignored. My dog gets overlooked as I try to catch up and pouts. The cat… Well, the cat doesn’t really care about me at all…

aga doesn't care

This is the face of a cat that does. not . care.

Ultimately, those small details that nag at you in the middle of the night are also a part of the big beautiful body of work you create. Recognizing them as a side effect of your job, and NOT your job itself, will help you put them aside, deal with them when you can and then focus on your family, hobbies, passions outside of work, and all those thousands of other nonlibrary things. Because it is exactly all those other parts of life that make truly great librarians, not the amount of stress you show or lash out at your patrons or coworkers with.

If you’re feeling mired in the irritating little details lately I’d suggest you take the time to answer the same questions I just answered for this student. You’re most likely rocking it and you deserve to feel good about what you do. It’s a lot of work and laying it out in one place is healing. Write it out, put it aside and then go on a walk outside or something. Take care of you and you’ll be better at taking care of work.

Heres what I wrote:

Hey, ____!

Here are my answers for you:

1. The Goals and Aims of the 2nd Floor program.

The goal of the 2nd Floor is to create a self guided learning experience that is scaleable to various ages and focuses on creation (digital, physical or relationship). We strive to provide a wide variety of walk up experiences that patrons or nonpatrons can access independently or with the assistance of a librarian should they need it. In addition we offer many more formal programs and a robust volunteer experience for teen volunteers that results in a more of a mentorship/job training than most volunteer experiences available to teens. Ultimately, we want to reflect our community in all our offerings be it books, programs or physical space.

2. The services you provide and how teens impact what you choose to provide.

We offer traditional services such as books, movies, audiobooks, and reference assistance. Perhaps my favorite part of our traditional resources is the concept of being patron driven rather than library driven when it comes to purchasing. Under our search tab on our front page here’s a link that leads you to a page where a patron can request the purchase of materials. So long as it is in print (and not outrageously priced  – think multiple hundreds or thousands of dollars) we will purchase it and the patron who requested it will be the first to borrow it! (http://chattlibrary.org/patron-request-purchase-library-materials) This includes our teen population, in fact I LOVE showing off this feature during tours to school groups who come needing a “reference tour” and explaining this means Minecraft materials, movies, whatever!

We also offer a very robust catalog of digital resources ranging from movie streaming to online certification courses in a wide variety of topics (http://chattlibrary.org/resources)

Finally for programming we currently offer the following:

As far as getting feedback from our teens goes, I’d say we utilize the following methods:
  • Comment Cards
    • Sure lots of places have these but most places hope they won’t get filled out. I not only encourage them to tell us what were doing wrong but if they’ve really enjoyed something I have them tell us about it on a comment card. These babies get read all the way to the top and it’s a chance for teen voices to truly be heard and make an impact! If something’s really popular we’ll repeat it and if something bombs we get rid of it. We’ve taken even the most outlandish concerns seriously including putting in a swimming pool and installing a zip line.
  • Volunteer Program
    • A well run volunteer program will provide you with invaluable insight into the honest opinions of how you’re doing in a teen’s eyes. REALLY. Not the sugar coated answers they’ll give you because you’re a grownup stranger who asked hem a question but the honest to God truth about your performance. This program can give you a chance to build relationships with the very population you’re looking to offer your services to. Don’t squander their help by limiting them to physical tasks like cutting out things or sitting at a desk. Involve them in the creation of your department and it will ring with an authenticity we grown ups simply can’t provide on our own!
  • Focus Groups
  • Community Events
    • When I table at community events I don’t prattle on and on about all the great stuff we’re doing for teens. I bring the button makers, let the teens get creative and when they’re obsessed with how much fun we’re all having a ask them what they’re into. If we have a program that matches their interests I let them know, otherwise I take notes and ask if I can contact them to help make their ideas a reality.
  • Customer Service
    • This is above and beyond all else the best tool to find out what your teens want. Don’t be the librarian behind the desk they go to when they need something. Be the librarian who is always around, playing what they’re playing, making what they’re making, a real part of their world within the library. The librarian behind the desk is someone they’ll never feel they can really trust so they’ll never be honest about what they want. The librarian behind the desk will run ideas past them, and the teens will say they think they’re good ideas and then won’t show up after those “good idea” are a reality. The librarian thats out there playing with them will know what they want through all the conversations (and fun) they’re having  together.

3. How you gather feedback and analyze that feedback.

We organize the feedback from the Focus Groups into spreadsheets and publicly share our findings using social media. We immediately start adjusting our offering s and performance based on this feedback.
When it comes to our everyday interactions we just talk all the time about fine adjustments we can make base off the vibe on the floor from day to day or cultural changes that take place as different groups of teens/tweens discover us, become obsessed with us, leave us, etc.
Comment Cards that come in about our department are reported to us and we determine what course of action to take then these decisions are shared with the patrons who turned in the comment cards if they asked to be contacted.
In time it becomes a full circle kind of thing. Teens ask for stuff in various ways, we deliver, then we talk to them or get comment cards from them about how it went. We listen, adjust and move on!
I hope this was helpful. It was so fun to write that I actually think I’ll turn it into a blog post. Thanks for making me think about my work in these terms!
If I didn’t quite give you the info you were looking for just let me know!
Megan

Camp EtsyNooga – The When

You’ve been drumming up details, locating speakers and charging your patrons up for this camp. You’ve built buzz in your community and received some valuable feedback by this time. Now it’s time to organize that feedback into phase 2 of your logistical journey – The When.

The Speakers

Chances are your speakers actually asked YOU for this information. And I gave you nothing to tell them. What did you say? “I don’t know yet”? “What do you think?” “What works for you?” Hopefully a combination of these questions and maybe more!

Your Etsy folks will have fair seasons to contend with based on the time of year you host this event. Too close to the holidays and you’re competing with their most lucritive time of the year. Weekends in the Summer could mess with their ability to earn during the steady selling season when fairs are outdoors. Either could mean missing out on some heavy hitters with a LOT of experience and talent to share. Even worse, asking them to take time off from earning money can make you seem insensitive or out of touch with their reality.

What to do? If you’re having your camp in the Summer your teens will be out of school anyway so you can plan for a midweek day to host that is less likely to interfere with your sellers’ schedules. If you’re aiming for the Fall when teens are back in school you’ll need to use your weekends wisely. Start communicating with your speakers to find out what their availability looks like and schedule accordingly. They’ll feel appreciated and valued being treated well and given time to plan accordingly. This makes for happier speakers and therefore better talks!

Some good questions to ask:

  • What fairs do you have lined up already? Could you share their dates with me?
  • I want to be sensitive to your production schedule as well as your selling schedule. Is there a day or time that’s generally better or you?

The Teens

The first time I ran this camp I did it in November. We had camp every Saturday from 9-3 and then the first Saturday in December we hosted the Week 6 Masters Class. Was it perfect? No way! I had Thanksgiving to contend with and all the travel complications and family plans/traditions that come with that! Most people would avoid November like the plague but I also saw the benefit of this time of year. Having a Week 5 Selling Experience during Small Business Saturday meant shoppers would be REALLY excited to get some holiday shopping done and that teens would earn more money. WIN. I was all in. Plus, it’s a pretty good lessons for teens that being a part of the DIY movement and successful means selling when others are playing. Regardless of holidays and family plans.

Completing the amount of work I designed in 5 weeks would also be a challenge for the teens. I’d just attended Etsy’s Summit on Re-Imagining Manufacturing where I was briefed on the experiences of the other 9 cities who had facilitated Etsy’s Craft Entrepreneurship Program. Th Entrepreneurship Program is their start to finish curriculum designed to teach adults how to open a shop in a few weeks that we were about to host in Chattanooga. When I finally got a look at their curriculum I was panicked. The curriculum I had designed for teens was WAY more involved, WAY more complicated and had WAY more homework! I was asking teens to undergo the entire branding process, create enough stock to sell for a market and digest mathematical formulas they had never encountered before while considering social psychology ideas most adults have a hard time comprehending ever in just 4 weeks. And with only 4 sessions together. 20 hours total counting their daily hour off for lunch.  Was I asking too much? Don’t forget that in November teens would still be in school. I’d been working on this for well over a year and far before I had a working relationship with the Brooklyn office. Surely I could make it work though… Right?

Youbetcha.

The thing that’s amazing about the timeframe of the camp is that teens have stress and school and more complicated lives then ever but they also have something most adults tend to lose. Fierce beliefs and hope. My efforts to let the teens find their drive by fueling those two things paid off and they rose to the challenge. They impressed not just me but city government officials who stopped by to see what we were up to. They impressed seasoned craft fair veterans and customers who reported to me that their booths at the fair were some of the best there. The amount of work I gave them was not too much. In fact, one teen remarked after our 4th Week session “I just realized today that camp is only 1 hour less than school is each day. But I had no idea because I love camp so much and learn so much here!” (If ever there was a soundbite moment when I WISH we were all constantly recorded for posterity and documentation THIS was it! Alas, the dystopian orverlords have yet to sieze control… You’ll just have to take my word for it. Or hers. If you ever come to Chattanooga I’ll introduce you two and we can clear up any doubt you may have.)

You may be wondering about expanding the Camp at this point. Stretching into more days so topics can be more deeply explored. By all means go for it!  The camp I’ll be supplying you with is packaged and intended to be completed in 6 days. I’m in the process of expanding it to 10 days this summer and will post the extended version for you once it’s wrapped up. If you see a natural way to split up what I give you to expand it before then please feel free and let me know how it goes! But don’t forget that there’s a benefit to having the camp in only 6 days too, it’s a compact version where teens CAN accomplish their goals if they can stay focused and are motivated to make this dream a reality.

The Space

When you were asking questions about where you would be hosting Camp in house did that dictate any decisions for you? Is there a month that is simply off limits? A time of day?

What day of the week is the fair you want your teens to attend? It’s always easiest if this is the same day the rest of the camp sessions but not impossible if not.

Putting it All Together

When you put together the pieces of teen schedules, seller obligations and your space’s limitations what do you come up with?

Will yours be a Summer Camp when teens are unincumbered by school and afterschool activities?

Will it be a Fall Camp where you capitalize on Holiday shopping trends?

Will it be a Spring Camp that get a boost from the outdoor market season opening?

If you want to share or have questions post below and we can work together to figure out what’s best for you!

Next up – The What