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 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

Camp EtsyNooga – The Who

The local EtsyNooga team’s logo…

So you’ve spent some time thinking about what this camp will mean to both you and your teens by now, The WHY behind creating it at all. GOOD JOB! I firmly believe that unless you walk the walk your teens won’t truly connect with this camp.

Now to figure out the WHO… That might not seem like the next logical step, if you’re like me you’re thinking you need to design the camp and then find people who fit the bill. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) all our communties are TOTALLY different and there’s no guarantee that when you’re working on the branding exercises for Week 1 that you’ll know a branding specialist. So why start there? Instead, hit the pavement! Go to your local craft markets, your local Etsy team meetings, your local small,creative businesses and talk up this idea!

I know, I know… You’re thinking to yourself “WHAT IDEA!?! What the heck, lady, you haven’t told us what this even IS yet!” Just trust me (and be a little bit patient…). You’ve just put in the work of why the camp should exist. Once you finnd community members who like this idea and want to have a stake in it the pieces will naturally fall together. Here in Chattanooga we’re big fans of telling folks “Don’t do what we do. Do what’s right for YOUR community.” and this is no exception to that rule.

A natural place to start looking is by reaching out to local Etsy Sellers. You can search for these folks by hopping onto Etsy’s website and searching the Teams area for your city’s name, your state’s name or something else specific to where you live or the topic you’re looking to highlight. If you have the equipment to have folks skype in or video chat in some other way your speaker options can be limitless!

Beyond that think abut who owns the cool vintage clothings shops or who’s always selling at the farmer’s market? Who’s successful in graphic design, creating the best shop storefronts, or has the best local packaging? If these people aren’t in your own town that’s okay too, reaching out to a more global audience of speakers can show how the same ideas work for people all over the state/country/globe!  Who do you know??? Time to reach out to just about everyone!

If you’re looking for some talking points for these interactions here you go:

  • I’m creating a camp for local teens to learn how to start and run their own small, creative businesses from the ground up.
  • I’m looking for local business owners, artists and creatives who would like to come speak to the teens on a wide variety of topics.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re Donald Trump, you just have to be willing to give 20 minutes to these teens to share: Your Story, Your Process or Your Talent. Having multiple voices from our community strengthens the teens’ learning experience and backs up the ideas they’ll be working on in a way that just one librarian can’t!
  • I’m recruiting well in advance of the camp so there will be plenty of time to solidify schedules that work for folks. We’re finding our talent before we create our schedule so that it works for everyone.
  • The general topics of the camp will be (I know you’ve been dying for these!!!):

Week 1 – Inspiration, Ethical Sourcing of Materials, Finding Your Brand

Week 2 – Brand Identity & Packaging

Week 3 – Pricing, Writing & Photography

Week 4 – Booth Displays & Stage Presence

Week 5 – A Selling Experience (Field Trip!!!)

Week 6 – Masters Class for Families on How To Open an Etsy Shop

EditSo maybe now that you’ve seen the topics for each week of camp you’ve already spawned some ideas about who would be perfect, go talk to them! Tell them why you think they’re perfect!

Your goal until the next post is to try and find at least 1 speaker per day. If you can find multiples it will only strengthen what you’re creating. Many times these speakers will be interested in coming for a half day or a whole day to see what camp is all about. (In fact, many of the speakers collected the handouts and articles we used to use on their own shops later. SO validating!) If this interests them then let them hang out as long as they want! They seem to want to dip in and out of the exercises your teens will be working on offering advice and personal experience that adds a meaningful depth to the camp.

It. Is. Priceless.

When you’ve got folks who are interested let them know that you’ll soon be following up with details about where and when the camp will be. And that’s exactly what we’ll talk about in the next post – The Where.

OMG, There’s Gonna’ be a Book…

Today is such a mixed up kind of day. Recently I lost one of my favorite fathers from library world to a terrible motorcycle accident. Yesterday morning one of the kids (now 20) from my first library also passed away from a motorcycle accident. Geez…

There are some incredible things afoot in my world so I didn’t imagine writing this post would feel so bittersweet.

I’ve been waiting a really long time to announce that I’m writing a book with the amazing folks at ABC-CLIO Libraries Unlimited. I am STOKED. I am so incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work with such a great group of people on a topic that is my absolute favorite thing to talk about ever- Progressive Programming for Tweens and Teens. It’s going to cover a lot of what folks have a tendency to ask me about: Lego Club, my Teen Volunteer Program, the 3D’s of 3D Printing and a LOT more. I’m writing it from the perspective of a “non-librarian” and my goal is to create something accessible for stay-at-home moms, kick ass nannies, teachers, and anyone working with kids who wants to try something new that’s grounded in experience.

I’ve been helping my incredible coworkers present at a variety of conferences lately and barreling down the road to the various conferences I’ve had a lot of time to think. (Well, in between laughing at how hilarious they all are…) Some of these really sad things are coming on the heels of these other great things (like I’m getting married in two weeks!) and it mirrors perfectly what I’m trying so hard to achieve in work right now – balance. Balance between the warm body work and the brain work I do, between addressing the inappropriate behavior of kids and rewarding their great antics, and between following my own message of staying inspiredand getting shit done.




Create Your Own Divergent Release Party: Part 3

Well, the week is finally upon us!  This Friday thousands of teens (and non-teen fans of YA) will flock in costume (and not) to their local theater to catch a glimpse of Divergent come to life.

I will be celebrating in my usual way for this kind of thing- in a panic that no one will come to the huge event I have planned and then rapidly winding my way through all the crazy activities I’ve planned when a ton of kids do show up.

Here’s where my party stands at this point:

Building Leap Photo Booth – Green screen photos will make it appear teens are leaping off of a building

Fear Maze  – Teens drink a blue drink, enter a sensory maze with 5 potential channels which will “sort” them into their factions.  It will be constructed from large cardboard boxes, black garbage bags and box fans which will fill everything with air.  There will be various sensory challenges like crawling through stringy things, over wet things, over crunchy things, etc.  Anyone who can’t finish they will be Factionless.  Upon emerging teens  will be given a faction button (made on our button maker!) to wear proudly.  They will then report to their faction to do their duty. (tee-hee!)
Amity Faction Duty – Make popcorn, hand popcorn out to teen participants, train your next faction member in how to make popcorn and hand it out
Abnegation Faction Duty – Use Metal Stamping equipment to teach teen participants how to make watch sized piece of washer bling and train your next Abnegation member how to do this.  Also, for the daring I’ll have a no mirror makeup challenge set up!
Candor Faction Duty – Lead teen participants through a positive honesty exercise I saw here.
Divergent  Faction Duty – Tattoo (temporarily) teen participants and the next Dauntless member, teach the next Dauntless Member how to tattoo.  These tattoos will be created using our vinyl cutter so they’re totally unique and like nothing else out there!
Erudite Faction Duty – Explain to the next Erudite Teen that you are actually in charge of the Fear Maze Entrance. Once you have debriefed the next member on how it works, go lead teen participants through the maze.
Movie Previews – Blasting on one huge white wall will be the official trailers and teasers from the Divergent Website!
Volunteers– So far I have 15-20 volunteers who will  run all the stations.  The are enough volunteers that they can each work for half the party then play the rest of the time!
Prizes: We got 5 movie tickets donated and bought three paperbacks to give away.  Also, a local makeup artist agreed to volunteer at the event so we’ll be giving away 15-minute on the spot makeovers!
Decorations– I’ve found some great faction specific images I have cached on Pinterest for each alcove/faction activity.  I’ll give away the posters at the end of the night (inadvertent help breaking down!) to kids who didn’t win our other prizes.
I’ll be cutting, stretching & hanging black garbage bags to help create a Dystopian , garbage strewn vibe.  (That’s what the picture is of but there will be more pictures to follow, I promise!)
The popcorn bags all have little Amity Trees glued to them to make it look as if it’s a government issued snack.
Oh!  And volunteers will be cosplaying their favorite factions!  That oughta’ add to the vibe!
Now to find some dubstep to blast in that fear maze, excuse me…


Create Your Own Divergent Release Party – Phase 2

So I’ve had a couple months to get my ideas together and bounce them off my incredible staff members @justinthelibrarian and Lee Hope to find out what’s doable, what’s fun and what would drive them bonkers and needs to be dropped.  Here’s where things stand:

The Cardboard Fear Simulator:  They both loved this idea!  In fact, Justin went the following week to talk to a local manufacturing company about saving us as many large cardboard boxes as possible.  They said they do that all the time and they’d be happy to reserve their boxes for us until Spring for free.  In fact, they’ll even drop them off for us!  AMAZING!  I’ll be getting fun sensory materials to put inside, foam, ripped paper, bubble wrap, sponges, etc.  Depending on which path they take they’ll be sorted into different factions.  As they emerge they’ll receive a button stating which faction they now belong to.  If they get too scared and go back to the beginning they’ll be dubbed “Factionless” and receive that button!

Giant Foam Pit w/ Pictures:  I decided it was a bit unrealistic to start with a foam pit for my first project (someday, my pretty) but I did figure out how to get the whole jumping off a building shot thing.  We’ve recently installed a photo booth on the 2nd floor (Check it out here!) and in talking with our incredible Tech staff we’re going to do a green screen backdrop and have kids jump while we take their photos.  The buildings will be super imposed in the background and voila!  Base jumping shots from the comfort of your library that are instantly uploaded to our Phothobooth’s own Instagram Page.

Temporary Tattoo Station:  We got our Silhouette Cameo up and running and will be getting some tattoo paper to print the tattoos off with, this should be fairly straight forward and because we’re printing them ourselves we can make them nice and big!

Crazy Dystopian Hair Station/Hair Chalking:  I’m going to be reaching out to a local beauty school to see if their hair students would be willing to come for an hour and just give crazy hairstyles to the teens.  Luckily a staff member has a connection to one local school but there are many we could reach out to.  It could be a great chance for these students to add some more unique work to their portfolios!

We’ll be purchasing the hair chalk supplies this week and doing test runs with kids at our next Focus Group which should be a ton of fun!

Also, I’ve got some new ideas to add in:

Giveaways:  I want to give away a couple of the trilogies of the books that night as well as tickets for the movie since we’ll be hosting the event the Friday that the movie opens, March 21st.  Since we probably won’t have enough tickets and books for everyone, we’ll also have ARCs to giveaway and I’ll be 3D printing some kind of Ferris Wheel items for everyone to take home.

Trailer/Munchies: We’ll have the trailer/s looping on one of the walls with our popcorn machine out so kids can  watch it and munch away… I’m even going to try and make Amity Bags to hold the popcorn so our look is authentic.

I’m getting really excited, this plan is coming together nicely, I have a ton of support and I can’t wait to finally host my first big event here at CPL!  Feel free to share whatever you’re going to do in the comments, I’d love to talk to other people hosting something like this!


The 3 D’s of 3D Printing – Necessity is the Mother of Invention

The 3 D's of 3D Printing - Necessity is the Mother of invention

It was a dark and stormy night. @justinthelibrarian was giving me a ride home as my car had been totaled a couple days before on the winding and treacherous mountain road that leads to my apartment. We were both feeling frazzled by our 3D printer.

Sure, it was a lot of fun but as tends to happen with many library services it was becoming a novelty that folks wanted instant gratification from. If any of you have played with 3D printers by now you know they aren’t speed machines. An object the size of your fist can easily take 3-5 hours to produce depending on what kind of meat hooks you’ve got and the specifics you put into the printer. This was resulting in a lot of “Make me this” and “I’ll be back in a few days to pick it up” which meant we were essentially a two man queue of constant printing. And not just cute little things, ridiculous 8-16 hour jobs of things that were gimmicky test runs.

It’s total human nature to want to make the biggest, craziest thing you possibly can get away with when it comes to cool, free technology but we felt the point was being missed and it was a drain on our time and resources. In short, it was totally bumming us out. Something had to be done and on that short car ride the idea of the 3 D’s of 3D Printing was born.

What we wanted people to be taking away from using this machine was inspiration and a desire to learn more about design and how it can affect our society, not just trinkets. But trinkets are cool too and we didn’t want to take those away either!

Now we’ve worked out a way for our patrons to have one on one time with a librarian who will teach them step by step how to use the websites and programs available to start by reproducing and designing their own small and trinkety objects. In each step they graduate into thinking like designers and learning about the social impact these machines can have.

Justin’s written a great piece on the plan we’ve developed for kids to earn their first 3D Printing License here. It’s kind of like working through the belts in karate, this lowest level license is the White License. With this license you’re allowed to print one object per day that takes 1 hour or less to print and you can ask a librarian to change the color of the filament before the print begins. This allows kids to level up and earn those big prints they really want while learning what is and is not going to work. It creates order around the printer since each person can print one item per day and allows a greater number of patrons access to the printer at the same time. It has provided an incredible transformation and the parents love it!

We’re still tweaking the next 3 challenges kids will need to complete in order to earn their Yellow License but we had to share what we’ve worked out because chances are if we’re experiencing these growing pains with our 3D printer so are you and this might just be an option that works for you as well!

Tell me if this helps you out or if you have other road blocks you’ve encountered so far in the comments!

Oh, and I’ve finally found a new car now and am back on the road in case you were wondering. Viva la VW!

Programming Basics – Sell Yourself, Then Your Program


So now that I’m getting into the swing of things on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library I’m able to start programming.

This. Is. My. Passion.

Which makes it at times almost uncontrollably hard to rein in.  I always want to go way overboard when it comes to programming and it can be hard to just pick one thing to start with.  I tend to focus on what a program could turn into (An entire gaggle of crafty teens meeting weekly to yarn bomb the city together!  A fleet of girls who Skype with Amy Poehler about the frustrations of being ballsy, creative young women as we create a zine!  A group who study the acoustics of ukuleles, design crazy versions we 3D print, then have an impromptu “Learn Your First Chord w/ Amanda Palmer in 5 Minutes” program that turns into weekly Uke sessions. Seriously, it’s like this in my brain ALL DAY…) instead of how to build the fan base to make those big programs work.  Luckily, with a few locations and years under my belt I’m finally getting better at the start up of such programs.

So here’s what I’m gonna do:  I’m gonna’ delve into my own childhood and give a few of my choice memories away to a new generation.  First Up? I’m gonna teach 8-18 year olds how to make and then use a Knitting Nancy.  Anyone remember those?  I spent HOURS when I was about 9 creating endless chains of yarn and dreaming about what I’d turn them into.

I picked this for four reasons:

  1. Because DIY is hot right now.
  2. Because Retro is hot right now.
  3. Because Kids can smell a fake a mile away and unless I’m totally into what we’re doing they’ll hate it/me.
  4. Because the kids who freakin’ love it will come back for more.

This program will be fabulous and these kids will want to come back.  Next time I’ll hook them again and this is how I’ll build my crafty fan base.  Eventually, we’ll get to those big ideas but first, I’ve gotta sell myself to them.

Oh, in case you’re interested in teaching kids Spool Knitting (also known as French Knitting) I HIGHLY recommend this video which I’ll be showing them on Saturday. Seriously, this 6 Year Old Boy might be my new hero…

My First Week in Chattanooga

If there’s anything I’ve learned from realistic tween fiction it’s that being the new girl can be hard.  Really hard. Roving bullies, countless social faux pas, missing friends and family, it’s really just a wasteland strewn with mortification and terror.  Growing up I never exactly “fit in”.  My clothes were different, my hairstyles were different, my sense of humor was different and the things I liked to do for fun were really different. (If you’ve just moved to a new town I do NOT recommend jumping straight into imaginary downhill skiing on your roller-skates in front of the cool kids.)  When we moved to Maine I was nine and I had all of the aforementioned things going for me.  It was like walking straight into one of those novels except there was no turning the page when things got too hard to read.  I couldn’t finish the book and be glad I wasn’t in some other girl’s shoes.  I embraced the strange though.  I liked standing out as a societal rebel, I took pleasure in scaring the other kids with my sense of humor and while my lack of friends bothered me I didn’t want to compromise who I was.  After about a year of this I found Rachel, another outsider, and we took solace in one another’s company. All of a sudden the world with bullies didn’t exist anymore, all that was real was the world we created for ourselves.

Some folks have been asking what my first week has been like since joining the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library. There’s interest about having gaming equipment for teens available all day (even if teens are skipping school), there are questions about letting kids have access to expensive equipment like our 3D printer, there is wonder about the fact that we have 14,000 sq feet for JUST ages 8-18, and there are questions about what we’ve got up our sleeves, what big, crazy things we want to do next.

The fancy equipment is wonderful to have right off the bat, but it’s not the best part.  I’ve always pushed to get games in my previous libraries and the responsibilities libraries have to reflecting our communities and bridging gaps makes it easy to justify the need for 3D printers or maker spaces in grant funding if you can’t find room for it in your budgets.  

We have lots of space to grow, be noisy and even run around if we want to which is incredible but it’s also not the best part.  This week we had the room to create music and a gigantic 20 foot jellyfish at the same time.  When the kids excitement led them to get rambunctious they were encouraged to run, no, stampede to the other end of our floor to get drinks of water and burn it off.  I know space is hard to come by for many libraries but even at my first library when we didn’t have enough space to run around we could go outside to burn off energy.  At my last library when we needed to burn energy we occasionally just let the kids be kids and run if needed.  There can be creative ways to deal with small spaces and locations that don’t have the great outdoors at your disposal.

The best part about working in the Chattanooga Public Library and specifically on the 2nd Floor is being in a building filled with people like me.  People who have also had their programming ideas received with raised eyebrows, people who might not look like other librarians and certainly don’t talk like them.  It’s like I’ve found a hive of Rachels and we’re just getting started in creating those big, crazy programs everyone is waiting to hear about.  I am supported, I am inspired, I am encouraged and I am flourishing.  That’s what it’s like to work here.