One of my favorite projects of the year has started. Our student book budget group is a group of 3rd-5th grade students who volunteer their time to decide on new books for the library. This project has been a part of our library for several years. Each year, we make some adjustments to improve the process and make sure student voice is heard. Over the course of December and January, students in this group will survey the school on reading interests, develop goals, meet with vendors, develop consideration lists, place a book order that meets a budget, process new books, market new books, and enjoy reading the books they have selected. It’s quite an undertaking, but something I cherish every year.
I created a Google form application that was emailed to all 3rd-5th grade students. In the application, I linked to a video that explained the project to students. Some teachers played this video for the whole class. Other teachers simply reminded students that applications were open. We made announcement reminders on our morning broadcast for students to apply. Applications were only open for one week.
This year, I wanted students to make a commitment up front to stick with the project from beginning to end. I made this one of questions to help me decide who to accept into the group. I generally accept every student who applies, but if students weren’t willing to commit to the time the project takes, then I knew they might not be the best choice for the group. I knew I could at least talk in person with students who said no/maybe so that we could clear up expectations and requirements.
Once students were chosen, I announced our team on the morning broadcast and communicated with them and their teachers via email. We have 25 students on this year’s team. Our routine schedule is to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 for 3rd grade, 11:30 for 4th grade, and 12:00 for 5th grade. This time is taking the place of our open makerspace time during December and January.
During our first meeting, students thought about what they might put on a survey about reading interests. They started by doing a walk around the library and seeing what they noticed about the shelves. For example, they saw how empty the dinosaur, fun facts, and ghost section was. They noticed that we have a lot more humor chapter books than they realized. We used these noticings and last year’s survey to create a new survey.
In the end, they mostly kept the survey the same with a few small changes.
I emailed the survey to all 3rd-5th graders who have their own computer and let teachers know the survey was available. At our 2nd book budget meeting, each grade of students took iPads to the lunchroom and surveyed as many PreK-2nd grade students as possible. Each time the survey was submitted, it sent the data to a spreadsheet and summary so that we could see which grade levels weren’t as heavily represented and we could begin to set goals for our purchasing.
At our 3rd meeting, we checked in on our data to see what else we needed to do. We noticed that we needed more 4th and 5th grader voices, so we surveyed some of them at recess and made a final plea to teachers to give them time to take the survey in class.
We also used the 3rd meeting to go ahead and notice what the data was telling us so far. Each group noticed that in picture books the top requests were humor, jokes, graphic novels, and sports. In chapter books, the top requests were humor, sports, and mystery. In informational, the top requests were fun facts, cooking, ghosts, and animals/dinosaurs.
Students compared these results with what they noticed in their walk around the library. They saw that things mostly matched, but the biggest difference was the humor chapter books. People are asking for more, but we have so many that aren’t getting checked out. This is a point they are considering so that they really focus on what they think people will actually read.
Now, we are wrapping up our survey and firming up our purchasing goals so that we can start meeting with booksellers. We already have appointments with Jim Boon at Capstone and Gret Hechenbleikner at Gumdrop to look at their products. We’ll continue to update our progress along the way.