As National Library Week comes to a close, I wanted to share the few things we did in The Happy Library to celebrate. I chose to keep things simple, as this week was our return from spring break and our week of review prior to state testing. Although I had all sorts of grandiose ideas, I went with the simple things and I think they were just right for us.
Like most of you, I ordered NLW posters that I placed on our library doors and I ordered the matching bookmarks which I placed at the self-check-out for students to pick up as they made book selections this week. I also ordered some adorable stickers that said "Happy Reader" and gave those out during each library lesson. I'm not sure that I have photos of any of this, but these little treasures were well received by students.
I also put the question "Why do you love your library?" up on our Wall of Wonder and the students and teachers took time to write answers all week long. The board looked a bit of a mess by the end of the week, but there were some really touching comments on the board and it was nice to step back and reflect on the community we have created in the library this year. With only 25 days of school remaining, I'm a little nostalgic at this point.
I also put out a 1000 piece puzzle that I tried to use once before. We were not able to finish it the first time, so I thought I would try again this week. The students and teachers LOVED this, but alas, we still didn't get it completed. I think this particular puzzle is simply too challenging for our age groups, so I've been inspired to buy some new puzzles that will be more appropriate for our kiddos and place them all over the library next week...I'm calling that adventure "De-Stress from the Test" and kids can earn a pass to the library to work on puzzles for 20 minutes after testing is done. It's nice to see that a little idea can spark an even better one.
The library lessons this week consisted of a read-aloud for students in K-3 and silent-sustained-reading for students in 4-5. Our PreK students had a fun "beach" themed lesson. I brought in beach towels and put a beach sounds video on my board. We listened to the crashing of the waves, lay on our beach towels, and read all sorts of books about summer fun and water (they've been studying water and rain this past week in class). This beach lesson was such fun. And easy to pull off.
Finally, I celebrated our library workers this week. They had been having a little competition to see who could have the neatest shelving section, so I told them I would tally points and select a winning group to have Krispy Kreme donuts. Little did they know the prize was for everyone! They were so excited! I was shocked to know that many of them had never eaten a KK donut before. I forget sometimes. They relaxed with me, ate donuts, and talked about why they loved working in the library so much...and a few gave me hugs which is always well-received. It was a perfect ending to a very simple, but rewarding, National Library Week.
Being new to an elementary school library means being new to the work involved in hosting a book fair. My school usually has a fall and spring fair, both with Scholastic. The previous media specialist had already booked the fairs for this year, so basically all I needed to do was to confirm. Easy enough, right? Wrong. Way wrong.
My first rookie mistake was in thinking that a book fair only takes one week. Wrong. When looking at the schedule, the fair is delivered the week prior to the actual event week, so I had to make room for all those cases coming in (more on the cases later). I also had to schedule a "closed" day so that I could set up the displays and put the items out in the library. And we also have a Grandparents' Day Lunch that is hosted every year....on a Friday...during the book fair. The booking of the fair was done so that the Friday before the fair we could host the grandparents for a day of shopping. This meant no class preview day. Basically, I needed an entire week to get this fair ready. And it was the week of Labor Day, so that meant we were out of school on Monday. I can honestly say that the fact I have to take two weeks out of my schedule for the fair, not just one, was disappointing to me. But...I get it.
My second rookie mistake was approving the custom fair that was ordered without thinking about it. The previous media specialist was obviously experienced. She had done many fairs in this space and knew exactly what she could and would be willing to do. She ordered a custom fair with 9 cases, plus countless boxed items for additional "sections" for the fair. I didn't realize this was a mistake until the fair was delivered. When I saw the quantity of stuff rolling in...well, let's just say my reaction was less than positive. Mostly because I was realizing in that moment that it would be me and one Scholastic rep setting up the fair. (Scholastic promised me a person to help set up the fair since it was my first fair ever.) There is no way I will order a fair this large ever again....and I mean never. It is just entirely too much stuff for our small space!
After the Labor Day holiday, I hit the ground running on Tuesday and Wednesday with all of my classes. I tried to get everyone in to return and check-out books prior to shutting down all circulation for the week of the book fair. The students were sad that they didn't have an actual library lesson this week and I was too...but the excitement was building for the book fair. I had to shelve thousands of books in these two days! My little library helpers came in each morning to help, but I did do the bulk of it.
I awaited the arrival of the fair on Wednesday. It was to be delivered between the hours of 7am and 4pm. When my clock read 3:50 and no truck had arrived, I was anxious. And upset. And worried. But at 3:58pm, the truck pulled in and the custodian and Scholastic guy started unloading. This is when the real panic set in. I couldn't believe how MUCH stuff was rolling in the door. I mean we had a hard time fitting it all in the library and the cases were closed!!! I didn't get out of the door until after 5pm that day.
Thursday came and I locked the doors and got to work. I started at 7am and worked all day. I didn't even stop for lunch! I worked and waited for the Scholastic rep to come. I had been told twice that I would have help from a Scholastic employee since this was my first fair. When it got to be noon and no one came....well....panic set in. I was almost in tears, at this point. But I plugged on.
My third rookie mistake was that I had scheduled my Teacher Preview Event for Thursday afternoon. The teachers would be coming at 2:30 to create their classroom wish lists and to have snacks. I only had a few hours to transform everything. With no Scholastic help in sight, I tried to pull it all together. And...it seems I did a decent job. The teachers came in and loved it. They were in awe of how MUCH stuff was in the fair! (Ha....never again, folks, never.) They loved the fact that I had put out "vittles" (Chex mix with added pretzels and candy corn) and chilled drinks for them. They were also in love with the Scholastic bins for their wish lists.
If you haven't seen or heard about the bins, they are a new feature this year. You need to order them. I got mine free because I was selected somehow (probably because I had a custom fair with 9 cases!!! LOL). Anyway, teachers grab a bin, pull books they want from the shelves and put inside the bins. Then, they use a dry erase marker to add their name to the bin. You make a cute display with these and it makes it easy for families to select a book to purchase for the teacher's classrooms. The teachers said they had never gotten to do this before and they had so much fun! Several of them even got in on the photo booth action, so that made it festive.
So, I survived set up. And I survived the Teacher Preview. I went home at 4:30 or so and immediately put myself in an Epsom salt bath! When I got out, I informed my husband he was in charge of dinner and then I put my feet up and put a heating pad on my back. Words cannot express the degree of soreness I felt in my body. The next day proved it to me in bruises. I was covered in them!!! They were so bad that I had to wear a long-sleeved cardigan to work so that people wouldn't think I had been abused during the night.
Friday had finally arrived and it was time for the Grandparents' Day Event. Luckily, my principal helped me secure some volunteers. Oh my gosh...these ladies were the only reason I survived this particular day! The school counselor and speech therapist worked our cash registers for two hours straight. No breaks. My principal greeted guests and also ended up bagging items when the lines wrapped around the walls. One mom volunteered as well and she was so helpful with explaining our Classroom Wish Bins to families as they entered the library. I made sure folks registered for our free prize drawings and generally ran around like a chicken with its head cut off. We probably had about 400 people in the library in about two-three hours time. We sold over $3000 worth of merchandise. It was crazy, but successful.
If you are still reading at this point, I'm grateful. I don't want anyone to think that I am anti-book fair. But, as a newcomer, I see that it is a lot of work and the profit margin is extremely small. As I write this post, I am currently at home on a Monday awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Yep. This post was about my PRE-FAIR week. The fair was supposed to start TODAY. But, Hurricane Irma decided to show up, so my school is closed today and tomorrow. That means my fair will only be two full days. On Friday, we will only be open half a day so that I can begin packing it all up. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
I see the benefit in the book fair. It gets the kids and teachers fired up about reading new books. It gave families a reason to come together over books and that is never a bad thing. But, I did have families come up to me and question the prices on items. More than one person commented about the high prices. In a Title I school, it is hard for families to buy books at $20 a pop. That is why I think the small stuff (like pencils, spy pens, rubber erasers, etc.) sell so well. And that is the last thing I want to be selling. I want to sell books. It was hard to look them in the eye and tell them that yes, that was the actual price.
One thing that did encourage me in all of this was the fact that our families supported our teachers. Many of our teachers have a big treat in store when I deliver their Classroom Wish Bins this week. These families purchased books for our teachers and some families purchased more than one. It was an awesome sight to see.
So...I'm anticipating low sales this week for the actual book fair. With only two and a half days of shopping time, I will be doing well just to get my classes all in to the book fair once. Here's to holding out hope.
It was a busy week in The Happy Library! Monday started out with the long-awaited solar eclipse and it did not disappoint. Our young students were not allowed to view the eclipse outside, but did get to watch via Discovery Education's live stream. I gave certified glasses to all of our staff and they were able to sneak out of class to take a peek at the eclipse. It was as much fun watching them act like kids as it was to watch the eclipse! Even my principal (in the pink jacket) was giddy as she tried to take selfies with the sun.
We finished up our last week of the solar eclipse centers that I shared with you in the last post. The kids still enjoyed them, but I could tell that the excitement of it all had worn off a bit. Two weeks of rotation was just enough to make this a successful activity. My third graders begged to read instead of visiting centers, which made my heart melt, so many of them chose to just sit in our quiet area or at the tables and read....it was awesome. Notice that they are loving the book buddies to read with, too.
It was also the week of the library volunteer, meaning that when I invited students to come and help in the morning, I was overrun with almost 40 students!!! Lesson learned. I had to create a little application and several teachers have stepped up to help me make selections. The 4th and 5th graders have stepped up as clear leaders. I even have a few 3rd graders who I'm going to let help with dusting, straightening, and such. I'll do a separate post on my library volunteer program once I work out the kinks. The good news in all of this is that the students want to be in the library! They are taking ownership of the space and that means so much to me. It is certainly a step in the right direction for our library program.
And a final note about the collection. If you have been following me on Instagram, you know that I'm struggling with this aged book collection. I completed a collection analysis that revealed the average age of library books in our collection is 20 years old! About 67% of the collection is nonfiction...meaning we have some great nonfiction titles but very little to offer our fiction fans. There are only three sections of fiction books to the six sections of nonfiction.
I'm also at odds with the fact that there is little in the form of quality for our youngest readers. The entirety of offerings for our newest readers can fit onto one cart and most of it is very outdated. I shared all of this with our literacy committee and the principal. As most of you know, people get nervous when you start talking about weeding a collection, but it is necessary. I've placed the first book order and can't wait to see the kids faces when the new books are out. I'm going to make a VERY BIG deal about this. More info to come...
And with the outdated collection comes the cardboard magazine box signage. This way of labeling our shelves looks good when no one is using the library. But...after one or two classes have touched the books, it is a hot mess! These things are not sturdy enough to withstand constant handling and are typically falling down or crushed in by the end of the day. Plus...they don't do much for helping the books stay "in line" on the shelves.
I am on a mission to solve this problem. But, to be honest, I'm really wanting to genrefy. It is becoming evident that students do not know how to find what they are looking for. And with my students, they almost always ask "where are the mysteries?" or "do you have any funny books?"
I would also love to get some feedback on how all of you shelve your series. As you can see, my graphic novels are shelved in with my regular fiction, as are any other series. The signage is confusing for me, so I know that the students must struggle with it. I'd love to put my graphic novels in their own location. What about series? Do you guys use bins? How do handle this in your space? Let me know!
So, that's my recap of this past week. I learned a lot. My To-Do list got longer. But, I wouldn't have it any other way.
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