For several years, I have dedicated a portion of our library budget to be completely controlled by students. This project has come to be one of my favorite ways of empowering the voices of the students in our school. It’s so much more than just asking students what they think I should buy for the library. It gives students a voice in every aspect of the decision making and purchasing process. Each year is a bit different, so here’s a look at how we started the project this year.
Where did we get the money?
Some years our budget comes straight from my state budget. Some years it’s part of book fair profits. Some years it’s a grant. This past spring, I applied for the James Patterson Partnership grant where he gave $1.75 million dollars to school libraries. I was one of the lucky libraries to receive this grant in the amount of $5,000. This will be our budget this year along with rewards dollars that I have collected through Capstone Rewards.
How did I choose students?
This year I created a Google form and emailed it to students. I primarily pull students from 3rd-5th grade for this project and these students regularly check their email. I kept the form open for 5 days for students to apply. The beginning of the form included some details about book budgets followed by a video intro.
For students who marked that they might be willing to give up some recess time to participate, I followed up with individual emails and conversations. I accepted every student into the group unless they decided they didn’t want to do it. I created a group of all of the students in my email contacts so that I could easily send messages to them all. On my initial emails to the group, I included the teachers so that they were in the loop with what they were doing and why they were coming to the library instead of recess.
On Monday, students came to the library at 11, 11:30, and 12:00 depending on their grade level. I did a quick overview of the purpose of the book budget group and the steps that we would most likely go through across the course of the project. They also had a chance to ask questions. Then, we jumped into the work.
Our first goal was to gather reading interests from every grade level in the school. We made a copy of last year’s Google form.
Then, students talked about each question and whether or not they wanted to make changes to the wording from last year. Each grade level added to and revised the form until it was ready.
They made several changes, including asking students about their preferences in types of books such as picture book, chapter book, and informational books. They added some new categories of books and revised the language to be more clear.
During the 5th grade group, we went ahead and emailed the form out to students to begin collecting responses. We also created a QR code so that students who were surveying younger grades with iPads could easily pull up the form.
I emailed an update to the entire group to let them know that surveying needed to begin, and they started coming in before school, during lunch, during recess, and during any extra moments of the day to start surveying. All along the way, we could check our progress.
Throughout the week, I emailed updates to the group as well as sent reminders to teachers to let students fill out the survey. We will meet one more time this week to examine our results so far and decide if we have enough data to set goals or if we need to survey more people.
I’m very proud of this year’s group already and I know they are going to do miraculous things this year!