Signs of the times.


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.

What Teens Really Want

10-15 years ago we librarians got it wrong.

We were freaking out because we had programs for the elderly like book clubs, novel to film groups and other things they told us to do. We had programs for babies like storytimes and all the other stuff that moms and dads just bring their babies too. But what about the folks who weren’t babies or elderly? We were missing out on serving the majority of our populations! 

The logical solution? Help the teens!  People are scared of them! They’re vulenrable! What if they turn to drugs because they aren’t healthy/fulfilled/informed/in a library? It was a noble move, truly and not totally our fault. I mean EVERYONE was focused on this age bracket and how to help. We, naturally, threw our hat into the ring and devoted ourselves to teens and kicking butt in the process.

We formed teen advisory boards, ventured into high schools and gave reader’s advisory sessions, bought video game systems and hosted overnights. A lot of this was fun but then the ineviteable turnover took place. Folks aged out of jobs or moved on to other library systems and the teens lost out. Those of you who have entered a library as a Teen focused staff member following in the footsteps of the librarians who pioneered this programming know what this is like. Despite your efforts to win over new teen audiences and all the great advice out there (Just give them pizza! They’ll love you!) you couldn’t help but feeling like you were losing your teens. Like they didn’t like you. Like you weren’t good at your job. (Have I lost it? Did I ever really have it?!?)

The truth is that this happens because teens are maginficent and loyal creatures who are finally at and age where they’re able to stand up for what they believe in and will do so without calculating risk or reward. This is one of the things that makes them completely great. Think about it- teens will literally obsess over bands, athletes, shows or their crush. They will write poetry, create art and spend all their money on these obsessions. Their librarians are no different. Even if during my time in VT I heard a ton of flack for some of what I was trying to do I STILL have teens and tweens from that library who write to me looking for advice on books, girls, and bullies. The same thing has happened since I left ME too. These kids will always be “my kids” and if they’re reading this they know I’m if talking about them. You’ve gotta feel for anyone who steps into the shoes of the last Teen Librarian…

So how did we get it wrong? We focused on these elusive, loyal creatures assuming we could wow them and win them over instantly. By jumping from kids to teens we accidentally created a new barren wasteland of that now elusive group following our children’s programming audience – Our tweens. If we aren’t programming for tweens they’ll never become the kind of teens who will give us the feedback we need to create high quality programs teens have ownership over! You’ve gotta have BOTH to do your job well.

Fast forward from my gaming/TAB glory days and the landscape is totally different in Teen Library Land and I’m in a totally new city. What I’ve learned about the kind of work I do since I moved to Chattanooga is not in line with anything that’s worked before for me. I create a pop culture relevant program with a steady after school following? Everybody stops coming when summer starts AND NEVER COMES BACK. I create an intense program with homework about starting a small business that no teen in their right mind would sign up for? Massive hit and they want more. Any type of precipitation is in the forecast? The 2nd Floor will be a barren wasteland FOR THE WHOLE DAY. 

The only thing that hasn’t changed is what teens want.

Money, Freedom, Driving.

Really, that’s it. 

If you can host the local Driver’s Ed program you have struck gold, my friends. (Especially if you can work a little fun programming into their breaks!) If you can show teens how to get a job or earn money you’ve got a winner. If you can schedule your programming around when your teens are there, not when it’s convenient for you then you’ll do just fine.

The one program that’s able to cover all of these bases really well and that no matter where I am teens flock to is my volunteer program. I’ve set it up so that by working far (and I mean FAR) in advance I’m always able to give the teen who “needs 8 hours by tomorrow!” plenty to do. This kind of flexibility provides them with autonomy and Freedom.

I ask about their interests and simultaneously am able to flesh out my own programming by training them on how to lead a program, buying what they need to make it happen and letting go of control, only acting as support if they need it. This kind of training is actually mentorship and depending on the program various types of job training (large event management, program design & facilitation, customer service). All volunteers are offered a one page document when they’re ready that outlines their service and the impact it had on their community in bullet point sentences applicable to the job world. This provides them with meaningful work experience and creates a relationship with me they can use for college, scholarship or job applications. And you know what that leads to? Money

Occasionally there are opportunities to hang posters for the library or collect donations using their cars. Depending on your policies you may or may not be able to give teens driving time to earn those hours. That’s right, Driving their cars can be a library program.

So I’m taking a new look at how we present the Volunteer Program on the 2nd Floor. It’s not just us doing the right thing and creating high quality volunteer experiences for our local teens, it’s job training. It’s job shadowing. It’s a mentorship. It’s work training. And our two teen employees on the 2nd Floor were once volunteers so it’s also a job creation program. 

As such, I’m not only counting the hours that teens give us each month so we can show an in-kind donation with a serious monetary value from the very audience we aim to please, I’m counting the weekly number of participants in the volunteer program (as in working a work, week). I’m also kicking myself because this is a powerful stat I should have been collecting for years!

So go forth, re-examine the way you utilize your teen volunteers. Giving them more will get you more. I promise.