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Tabling at the farmers market

The Capitol Hill Farmers Market runs every Sunday from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, at the intersection of East Denny Way and Nagle Place. The market organizers occasionally offer gratis tables to neighborhood nonprofits, and have generously hosted us multiple times.

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Before market day

Coordinating with the market organizers

The market organizers are doing us a huge favor, so please be courteous, respectful, and appreciative of their help. Markets are usually completely filled by paying vendors during the summer months (~June–September), so there is no room for nonprofits. During the rest of the year, try to email the market organizers one or two months ahead of time to request a spot at an upcoming market.

As of late 2023, the market organizer for the Capitol Hill Famers Market is Madison Silva, reachable at msilva@seattlefarmersmarkets.org. The general contact email for the Capitol Hill Farmers Market is chfm@seattlefarmersmarkets.org, and the contact email for all Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets is NFMA@seattlefarmersmarkets.org.

Coordinating with other tool library volunteers

Post on the CHTL Slack a week or two beforehand to see if anyone else is able to join you in tabling.

While it is possible to run the table on your own, it is extremely useful to have a second volunteer with you. You will have multiple market-goers come to the table at the same time so tag-teaming allows you to have more engaging, persuasive conversations with each of them. It can also be nice to take a short break during the market – being "on" for 4+ hours straight is tiring!

Items to prepare

Most of these items can be found inside the green bin below the shop TV, where they're kept together for convenience.

You should prepare at least 100 quarter-page double-sided fliers. The PDF files for the front and the back of the fliers are on our shop computer's desktop. Our shop printer can only print single-sided, so you'll have to manually flip the pages around once you print one side so that you can print the second side. Since this can take a bit, it's wise to do this before market day, or to delegate this out to one of the volunteers that week.

Another key thing to bring is our free/giveaway bins of overflow tools. Most importantly, these are conversation starters at the farmers market, since passers-by are attracted by the "FREE" signs. It also helps us get items back out into the community that will never get checked out since we have so many copies already in inventory.

Additional items to pack include the following; most of these are inside a cloth tote bag inside the aforementioned green bin:

  • Paper
  • Pen/pencil
  • Black Sharpie
  • Masking tape
  • The CHTL and SCH fabric banners (which are usually hanging on the workshop wall)
  • A couple of clipboards
  • Tablecloth
  • The CHTL name tag of each volunteer who'll be tabling
  • If you have access to a car then bring the two CHTL sandwich boards as well

The market provides (and sets up for us):

  • Folding table
  • One or two folding chairs
  • Canopy

On market day

Setting up

The market starts at 11:00 AM, although people often start walking through the market before then (maybe 10:40ish). Market organizers will be walking around in reflective vests; introduce yourself, thank them, and ask where you should set up the tool library booth.

If you're bringing items over by car, you can drive right into the market area (enter through the orange cones at East Denny Way via 10th Avenue East), but you have to be out by 10:30 AM. You can park afterwards in the surface lot at 1843 Broadway; the market organizers can give you the four-digit code to park for free.

There's also bathroom access in the basement of another nearby parking garage for anyone staffing market booths. Ask the market organizers for the four-digit code.

Engaging with people

The whole point of coming to the market! Engaging passersby in conversation can be tough and tiring, but remember that we're offering the community a service that many will be excited to hear about. Warmly greet people who walk by and look at our booth, to help draw them in.

Over the course of the market, you'll come up with your own spin on the tool library pitch, but some core things to mention can include:

  • we have over 3,000 items available for patrons to take home, just like checking out a library book
  • these items aren't just tools that you'd find at a hardware store; our inventory includes ice cream makers, sewing machines, bike racks, hedge trimmers, and more
  • we also offer workspace for patrons to use, which can be helpful to Capitol Hill residents who don't have space, equipment, or landlord permission to do projects at home
  • we offer free classes and events, which let attendees learn a huge range of skills, such as how to mend their clothing, how to go backpacking for the first time, how to use a power saw safely, or how to brew kombucha
  • we're just a 10-minute walk from the farmers market, between Pike and Pine
  • membership is pay-what-you-can, and even people who do pay average just $30 for the entire year

Occasionally you'll be talking with someone and find that they're really enthusiastic about the mission of the tool library, or who are skilled in a particular domain. Try asking them whether they'd be interested in helping to staff the tool library, or in teaching a class based on their area of interest. If they're down, get their contact information and share it on Slack with the tool library volunteer coordinator.

Giving away tools

Having the prominently-labeled free/giveaway bins of overflow tools is a great conversation starter with market-goers; many will come over thanks to the "FREE" sign. You should encourage them to dig around and take whatever tools they want. Most won't take anything, but if they do pick out tools then just make sure to note down those tools' CHTL inventory numbers. You need to go into MyTurn after the farmer's market and mark these tools as "disabled" to remove them from our system.

Otherwise, while they're looking through the bins is a great time to enthusiastically ask "have you heard about the tool library?" and pitch it to them!

After the market

Putting things away

Return all the items you found in the green bin back into that bin – this should be most items (including the other “FREE” bin), besides the CHTL name tags, banners, and of course the sandwich boards.

If you have a car, you can drive into the market area to load it back up starting around 3:20 PM.

Once back at the tool library, return the green bin to its place below the shop TV. Place the other items back in their normal locations, although if you’re uncomfortable re-hanging the two banners (since they’re up so high) then you can place them on the shop table for someone to re-hang later.

Retire any given-away items on MyTurn

If anyone took items from the “FREE” bins during the market, you’ll need to go into our MyTurn inventory system and edit each of those items, setting their “Status” field to “Disabled.”

Reporting in on Slack

If you get a chance, make a post on Slack (in the #general or #events channel) with a summary of how the market went! It’s great to share a guesstimate of how many people you pitched, how many overflow items you gave away to the community, whether anyone voiced interest in volunteering to staff the library or run classes, and (if you happened to snap one) a picture of your booth setup.