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! ( 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 (

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!

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?


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

Camp EtsyNooga – The What

Some of the materials we used daily: laptops, printed worksheets, markers, pens, bottled water, folders…

Look at YOU… With your speakers and your timing down and your spaces located. I’m so proud of you…

I hope you like what you’ve been creating so far because the work is about to change. Your soundbites and elevator speech are probably pretty dialed in at this point. That’s great for what you need to share with the community. Now though, it’s time to dive into The What.

What exactly IS the camp?

What materials do I need to pull this off?

The STEAM Factor

Here at the Chattanooga Public Library we worked REALLY hard about a year ago to create a document that labeled every single walk up station and program with what we refer to as STEAM tags. The idea is that we can talk to any city government official, any teacher, and parent about all the educational benefits each station can provide their child. In fact Lee Hope, our Youth Services Coordinator, took it one step further in the Children’s Department and tagged all their walk ups and programs in accordance with (ECRR) standards too! I liked this way of thinking so much I can’t turn it off now and I even included this kind of breakdown for every single activity in the book!

The Camp is a complete STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) immersion experience for the teens who participate.

Each week I’ll share the STEAM terms associated with the topics you’ll be covering. However, in overarching sense here’s the big picture impact:

  • S: Social psychology of consumerism, purchasing and product photography. Creation of targeted branding based on social passions, product, identified customer base. Targeting customers based on socioeconomic patterns.
  • T: Use of new artistic equipment. Web based market research. Web based materials research. Organizing inspiration, materials research, pricing research into social media.
  • E: Construction of product. Creation of branded packaging.
  • A: Honing an artistic craft. Experimenting in new artistic mediums. Logo design. Product photography.  Writing about artistic process, artist, products. Booth design. Crafting a stage presence. Practicing public speaking.
  • M: Pricing formulas for profit, wholesale and retail markets. Timing creation process to determine formula outcomes. Sustainable pricing research and cost analysis. Financial literacy.

I bet you wish you had known all this sooner. Maybe you think like me so you’ve already been spouting these benefits (or at least speculating about them) to pretty much whoever will listen. If not and you wish I had mentioned them sooner fear not, they will re-energize your conversations, add a layer of educational depth to your pleads for additional speakers and reinforce the value of the contributions for those who have already agreed to help out.

What Do I Need?

I’ll give you a week by week breakdown of the materials you’ll need to pull of Camp each week but here’s the general set up requirements:


  • Messy Workspace
  • Room to leave stuff hanging on the walls


  • Projector
  • Laptop or iPad with Projector hookup*
  • Ability to play music (Pandora or other streaming service is the easiest)**
  • Printer

*My preferred presentation method is to use my iPad so I can wander around the room helping where needed. Plus I can control the music from it which is nice. I link up to the projector using Apple TV so there are no cords, just lovely wireless freedom.

** I found the Two Door Cinema Club channel on Pandora was the best for our group. I could leave it on a low volume while I was speaking without getting distracted and every now and then the teens would inadvertently bounce along with whatever song was on while working or breathlessly tell me how much they loved the music I picked. Win!

Everyday Items:

  • Folder or binder per camper
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • A TON of Paper*
  • Pens
  • Markers
  • Large Paper to Hang on the Walls
  • Tape
  • Scissors

These items may not be used in every single camp session but I like to keep them on hand for whatever pops up.

*I felt pretty bad about the amount of paper I used for this camp at first. You’ll be printing writing exercises, worksheets, articles and more. It may not seem like much at first but then you remember you’re multiplying everything by up to ten and Holy Moly that’s a LOT of paper. Not to mention printing out additional sheets for your speakers and yourself so you can follow along. If you create an online version of this that works for you I’m gonna love you forever. If not just remember, a lot of teens find it helpful to scribble their thoughts and notes physically. It’s all saved in a folder or binder where they keep track of their work and if your experience is at all like mine you’ll be referring back to these printouts frequently.

  • A local snack each afternoon of Camp (Be careful of allergies!)
  • Bottled water for your speakers
  • Thank You Cards
  • Camp stickers for campers and speakers (More viral marketing! Woohoo!)

These will up your status from library programmer to library goddess/god. Take extra special care of the people who come to help you for free!

If you have organizations or individuals who have asked if you needfinancial assistance with camp the items above make great donations. If not, now you’ve got a shopping list!

Go forth and gather your supplies because coming up next is Prepping and Advertising!


Camp EtsyNooga – The Where

For the most part this will be super easy. You’ve probably got a meeting room, large open area or cluster of tables where you always host your meetings. If you you’ve got this AND a teen space you’re super lucky. If you’ve got all this, a teen space AND it’s somewhere you can make messes you’re extra special lucky. And you owe your director a high five. Go find her/him and give them a high five, I’ll wait.

Cool, I’m glad you actually did that, they probably needed a boost today!

The picture above shows the space we used for Camp EtsyNooga from the end of the room where I projected all our slides (which I’m totally gonna’ share with you!). The one below shows the same space from the opposite side of the room. We have a rather large area against a bank of windows at the far end of The 2nd Floor. There are a bunch of round tables that very comfortably seat 4 people and plenty of chairs to go around. The wall behind me in the photo above is large and painted white but I used a projection screen to get the best quality picture possible. I limited camp to 10 campers and we started with 8, losing 2 along the way to scheduling conflicts. I used three tables so they had plenty of space to stretch out and create/think. Behind the campers you’ll see another bank of tables we would use for random activities throughout camp. Sometimes I would use these tables at the front of the space (behind me) too. Again, it all depends on what you think will work best day by day or subject by subject.

As we go through the camp week by week later I’ll suggest layouts for your space/activities but I’m sure you know your space better than I do and will make it work for camp in a way I could never possibly imagine. In the meantime, if I suggest something that doesn’t work don’t tune out. Simply take a second to envision your space then get creative about how you could make it fit/work. The idea you  start with may evolve a few times and that’s good! You should think about adaptiing your spaces to fit your ideas just as much as you think about aadapting your ideas to fit your spaces.

So. What do you need to do in your space? All of the following:

  • Show slide shows, pictures, projections of the internet
  • Play music at a low volume
  • Have tables where everyone can stretch out, draw, write, think and get a bit messy
  • Have access to bathrooms and water for breaks
  • Have room for a speaker to stand and give a talk or present a slideshow
  • Eat some snacks
  • Do some crafty things like cutting foam, hot gluing, cutting paper, playing with ink or paint and any special craft talents your speakers may have mentioned they’d be interested in teaching your teens
  • Hang large sheets of paper the teens will do exercises on AND some that will stay hung up that will map their journeys as they create their businesses (You can always take these down and rehang them before each session if thhe whole “leaving things up” thing doesn’t work for your space)
  • Finally, this is harder sometimes, but IF you can have a space that’s removed from most of the hubbub but still visible to the general public…that’s the dream. It provides a sense of separation and focus for your campers but will also generate buzz and discussion from patrons who want to know what’s going on. It’s guerrilla marketing at it’s best!

What do you think? Do you have a space where these activities can be performed? Is it one space or multiple spaces? Does it need to be reserved ahead of time or will you simply have access to it whenever you want? If so when should you do that? Should/can you ask for permissions to do some out-of-the-ordinary things in there (Like maybe the snacks, crafting or leaving things up on the wall)? Getting the answers to these questions will prepare both you and your staff for the camp in a logistical way that lots of folks overlook when planning. Preparing yourself for a large program is crucial but preparing your entire organization is responsible and considerate. 

Once your in-house needs are taken care of the tricky part kicks in. The 5th Week of camp is seller experience where your teens will actually take their products out into the world to sell them. If you’re as insane as I am you may want to create a local Etsy Fair that coincides with Small Business Saturday where you reserve a bank of tables for your teen entrepreneurs. However, maybe you like sleeping at night and have a family that likes hearing you talk about things that aren’t work related. If that’s the case you might reach out to an established local farmer’s market or craft fair to see how much a table costs and if there’s an option to purchase a bank of tables at a discounted rate (“Because I’m a nonprofit!, “To establish a local partnership focused on incubating teen entrepreneurship”, or “For the children!”).

You can use the same bullet points from my last post about reaching The WHO for camp to explain what you’re doing. Here’s an additional point that may be helpful:

  • I want to be clear that while the sellers are young their booths will not appear unpolished. They will be undergoing booth display training  to create  shopping environments that match their both their brands and their target audiences.

Additional questions to ask fair coordinators include:

  • What day is the fair?
  • What hours is the fair open to shoppers?
  • What time can sellers arrive to set up?
  • If sellers sell out of stock are they allowed to leave early?
  • What are the booth sizes?
  • Are tables or chairs provided?
  • Will there be parking?
  • Can I apply for the entire team or will we need to submit seperate applications?
  • Is this a juried fair?*
  • Are there any set up opbstacles or additional rules we should be aware of (Long distance to carry materials? Rules regarding where storage totes must be kept? Do have insurance requirements for your sellers?** Are there raffles or door prize drawings sellers must contribute product toward?)?

*Being juried means there’s a group of people who review each application and determine if it’s a good fit. Basically they curate their offerings to ensure they have a good blend of vendors and sometimes that the quality of the items being sold is up to par. If the fair is juried you may ask for an all or nothing kind of pass for your kids. If it’s not then there probably won’t be a problem with some kids making it in and others being excluded. Be sure to ask lots of questions if you’re unsure about what you’re hearing!

**If so this is probably not the fair for you. During the Week 6 Masters Class for Families you’ll cover making your teens’ businesses legit. This will include info for them on where to go to apply for LLC or Sole Proprietor status, how to register to pay state taxes and a couple sites and options regarding where they can purchase insurance and what types are available. But for the purposes of what you’re looking to accomplish in Week 5 a fair that requires insurance treads dangerously close to making a legal decision for a minor which is ground no librarian should tread upon lightly. If this kind of fair is your only option I suggest reaching out to your lawyer or HR department  for advice on how to proceed.

Finally, if there is no such market or fair in your area don’t be discouraged!  You can create one easily and maybe even wrap it into other programming! Why not create an area as part of your Summer Finale where the teens set up pop up shops? Organize a job fair that highlights local businesses who hire teens and have your teens represent themselves (and your sweet new camp) on the spot. Maybe wrap a simple entrepreneurial experiment for tweens into the mix and create a lemonade or hot cocoa challenge (I’ve been DYING to do this!).  

Finding your seller experience location as well as your in house location/s is the first step in your new logistical journey to programming  excellence. You may not realize it but you’re you’re taking the first steps to being a well organized and thoughtful staff and community member. Go forth with confidence and proudly accomplish your first logistical steps in this journey. You’re going to rock this!

Next up – The When