The 2021-22 student book budget team just completed their project for the year. Over 115 books were added to our library this year thanks to their work. We are so happy that this year’s books can be enjoyed for the second half of the school year. We are also happy that we were able to do this project in-person this year. We had to make a few changes such as not going on a field trip to Avid Bookshop and making sure students from the same class sat together.
I ordered the student selections for this project back in November, so supply chain and the holidays delayed the book arrivals until the first couple of weeks of January. I picked up our books from Avid Bookshop and cataloged them for students. Our Capstone books shipped to our school and included processing labels already attached. Each grade level of students helped unpack books, cross check with the packing slip, inspect for damage, label with genre stickers, and scan books into their genre categories. Students also helped display the books on the tables in the library.
Each student on the book budget team got to select one book to check out before anyone else. The remaining books were quickly checked out by classes visiting the library. I’m sure they will continue to be enjoyed many times this year and beyond.
This year we had many students try out this project for the very first time. At our final meeting, I asked for some feedback to see what students enjoyed and encouraged our 3rd and 4th graders to join the project again next year. No one really had any thoughts for improvements for the project, but I asked them to think about it. As usual, getting to survey students throughout the school, meeting with Jim Boon from Capstone, and prepping the books for checkout were at the top of the list of favorite moments. Hopefully next year, we will be able to go on our field trip again because that is always a rewarding experience for students and a connection to our community.
For now, we’ll enjoy these new additions to our library and build up our funds from book fair for next year’s project.
Our student book budget team has been hard at work preparing their order for this school year. To read more about their first steps, check out this post.
Once the book budget team had surveyed students in grades K-5, they took time to analyze their data in Google forms. Students made a list of their noticings and reached consensus on what book categories we would focus our budget on. It was hard to reach consensus with 70 kids, but each grade made a list of noticings and we looked for commonalities between those lists.
This year, students decided to focus on these categories.
Picture books: scary, humor, graphic novels, & SOME princess/transportation/sports
Chapter books: scary, mystery
Information: fun facts, ghosts, space
Other focus: jokes
With our categories ready, students started looking for books to add to our consideration list. In our Google Classroom, I added several resources for students to use. I linked books that were publishing in October, November, and December according to Publisher’s Weekly. I linked Here Wee Read‘s Bookshop site which has many highly reviewed books sorted into several categories. Our state Galileo database has Novelist K-8, so students also used this to search for books based on their goals.
As students found books for consideration, they searched for them at Avid Bookshop’s website and then filled out this Google form. The Google form populated a spreadsheet that made it easy for us to see all of our books for consideration so we could easily cut books from the list if needed. It took a lot of time to add a book to the list, but we were glad we did it when we got to our next steps.
We also asked Jim Boon, our rep with Capstone Press, to meet with us in person. Jim brought sample books that matched student goals. Students always enjoy getting to hold the actual books in their hands. He also brought catalogs for students to look through and scan books into our Capstone consideration list. Jim is really great about sitting with kids and showing them how to use the catalog index or how to look for books from the same series. We are thankful he continues to support this project.
The hardest part of the project is taking our consideration lists and cutting them down until we meet our budget. I originally had a budget of $2,000 for us this year, but our fall book fair did better than usual, so I raised our budget to $3,000. Between our Capstone list and Avid list, students had about $7,000 worth of books to look at. Each grade level took a look at both lists on their own computers and we also looked at the lists on the projector screen. The easiest books to cut were the ones that didn’t match our goals at all. Other times there might be a full set of a series and students made a decision to only purchase part of the set. As always, this is a time where I see students speak up on behalf of students that they had conversations with. Book budget students became advocates for the voices of our younger readers and made sure that some books remained on the list even if it was a book they didn’t personally want to read.
After lots of passes through our lists by each grade level group, our budget was finally met. I sent the lists to Capstone and Avid, and the books are currently being ordered. The book budget team is taking a well-deserved break while the books arrive. We started this year with a large group, but as the weeks went on, our numbers dropped a bit. I really wanted to see all students follow through with their commitments, but it’s still a tough time in a pandemic. It’s hard to follow through sometimes, especially now. I am proud of each student and what they were able to contribute. I am proud of the students who stuck with it and look forward to seeing them unpack and enjoy the books when they arrive.
Since 2010, Barrow students have been a part of a project called our “student book budget”. It’s had a few different names over the years but the idea has remained the same: students having total control over how a portion of the budget is spent to buy books for the library.
This school year provided us with extra challenges. We have been virtual for most of this year with just a few weeks in person in November, December, and March-May. I had to figure out how we would take so many of the pieces that we do in person in the library and throughout the school and transition them to online. Here’s a look at how our project went this year.
In January, students in grades 3-5 had the opportunity to apply to be in the book budget group by filling out a simple Google form. They had to include their name & teacher plus answer some questions about their commitment to meeting online and making decisions for the whole school rather than just for themselves. Finally, students wrote a short explanation about why they wanted to be in the group. As usual, I took every student who answered all the questions and had a genuine interest in the group. This year’s group had 15 students.
I created a Google Classroom where I could share links to our resources and Zoom as well as communicate with families. We met each Monday on Zoom to talk about our ideas for each step of the project. One of the first parts of the project is always to survey the whole school about reading interests. In our first Zoom, we looked at past Google form surveys to see what we wanted to keep, change, or add. Based on their discussion, I made a copy of the previous year’s Google form and made edits. The book budget team wanted students to pick 2 genre categories in picture books, chapter books, and informational books that they thought needed more books. They also gave space for specific suggestions.
Normally, students in grades 3-5 answer the survey via email. The book budget students go into the lunchroom, classrooms, and recess to survey PreK-2nd grade on iPads. This year, we still sent the survey to 3rd-5th graders in email. Then, we assigned each student in book budget to follow up with a Prek-2nd grade teacher via email to ask if they could share the survey with their students or if a book budget student could come to their class Zoom to talk about the survey. Overall, our number of completed surveys went way down this year but we still had a good representation of voices at each grade level.
Once the survey results came in, the book budget students set some purchasing goals. This year, they decided to focus on graphic novels, humor, ghosts, fun facts, gaming, and a few transportation books. Normally our budget comes from our fall book fair. However, this year our fall book fair was online and only made about $400 in Scholastic Dollars. Luckily, I was conservative in my spending last year with book fair profits so we still were able to have a budget of $2,000.
One vendor we always work with is Jim Boon at Capstone. Jim has always taken the student goals and curated a selection of books to bring in for students to look through. He also gives each student a catalog and shows them how to scan into a list. This year, Jim met with students on Zoom. Amy Cox at Capstone also helped us think through how we might easily put together a list. We decided to create a new account on the Capstone site that students could login to and collaborate on a list without messing with any of my regular Capstone account. I shared Capstone’s online catalogs with students in Google Classroom and they quickly discovered that they could click on a book in the catalog to get to the book on the website and add it to the list. Jim showed students how to navigate the catalog and also pointed out books that matched the student goals.
Another vendor we use is our local bookstore, Avid Bookshop. We usually walk to Avid and select books in person. This year Avid is closed to in-person shopping, so instead, I linked the website in our Google Classroom and created a Google form where students could submit the title, author, price, ISBN number, and link of the book. We took a Zoom session to go over all this and then students added books on their own. This book list went into a spreadsheet that I could easily share with Ian McCord at Avid Bookshop for ordering.
We took about 2 weeks to add books to the list and then we were able to have one in-person meeting just as in-person school started back up.
We used this meeting to look over our lists together and see what was missing. Normally, we have to cut lots of books from the list, but this time we were actually able to add more because students hadn’t spent all the money yet. It was more difficult for us to add books to our lists during virtual. Once the budget was met, I placed our orders.
When the books come in, we usually meet to unpack, add genre labels, and scan books into Destiny subcategories. With state testing, safety precautions, and the end of the year looming, I had to do some of this myself and use only a few of the book budget team to help.
We met one final time in person to take the books out of the boxes, double check that everything was here, and display the books on tables in the library. The book budget students got to pick 3 books to checkout and then the rest were available for anyone to checkout. Each class that visited the library immediately went to look at the new books and it didn’t take long for them to disappear into the hands of readers.
We do our best to expect the miraculous, and it definitely took the miraculous to pull this project off this year. Overall, I think it was still a great experience that still gave students a voice in the decision making of the library. While I love technology and virtual connections, I can’t wait to get this project back to in-person soon.
Since December our student book budget team has been working to make selections for our library. They have used profits from our fall book fair along with Capstone Rewards to order books from both Avid Bookshop and Capstone. With rewards and dollars, their budget was about $3500. When you consider that our list of possible books totaled over $7,000, you know that they had to make some tough decisions about which books to include and which ones to cut.
We are still awaiting just a few books from Avid, but most books are here. The students have spent 2 days unpacking the boxes. As books were unpacked, they were checked off on the packing slip. Then, students sorted the books onto tables by genre. Once stacks were created, students put the genre stickers on the spines and then a label protector was put over the sticker. Finally, the books had to be scanned into the genre categories in Destiny.
Once all the books were processed, they were ready to be put out on display. Students came one final time to display the books on tables in the windows of the library and anywhere else they could find a spot. Another bonus was that book budget students get to be the first to checkout a book. Capstone Publishers lets each student choose a bonus title that is their personal pick and the choice does not have to follow our purchasing goals. Students were able to checkout their personal pick along with a couple of other titles.
The remaining books were up for grabs just before our busy checkout time of 12:15-1:30. It’s always fun to see which books get checked out first and how fast all of the books disappear.
This project is a core part of our library each year. The library collection belongs to everyone and I love that students have a voice in adding titles to our library each year. As always, we thank Capstone and Avid Bookshop for their collaboration in this important work.
This year’s student book budget group has worked super hard. It was our largest group ever, which brought us some challenges we haven’t faced. I’ve learned a lot about how I might organize the group better next year. Even with our new challenges, we finally reached our goal of narrowing our consideration lists to match our budget.
As students sat down with our lists we had about $6000 worth of books picked out, but a budget of only $2500. I usually surprise them with some bonus money if they have done a good job. This bonus money comes from our Capstone Rewards dollars. Students had a hard time narrowing down our Capstone list because there were so many high interest topics in Capstone’s catalog. The bonus dollars really helped them not have to cut so much from the list.
The process for narrowing the lists was that we split into 2 groups. At one library screen, we pulled up our Capstone list. At the other screen, we pulled up Avid. Each group chose one person to stand at the computer and click books to consider for deletion from the list. They took turns with this role.
To decide on a book, students thought about many factors. They pulled the book up on the screen and read what it was about. They thought about how many of that type of book we already have in the library and how many of that type were already on the list. They considered if the book actually matched the goals from our student survey and whether students would really read it. Students took a vote and majority ruled. Sometimes the vote was close and the students would have a discussion about why the book should stay or go. Then, students would vote again.
It wasn’t the most fun part of our project, but the group that work on narrowing our list was committed and got it finished. It certainly was an important life skill to develop in our group.
I took over at the this point because I needed to make sure our lists were all ready to send to our 2 vendors. Both Avid and Capstone turned our list into a quote for our accounting system. I got them put in and approved and now both lists of books have officially been ordered.
Now, we wait. When the books arrive, a whole new fun process will begin to get the books ready for readers. We can’t wait!
Now that winter break is over, our book budget students are back at work. This week we took 2 separate trips to our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop. I had almost 40 kids split across the 2 days. Avid Bookshop is located within 1 mile of our school so we can easily take a walking field trip to the store, and most of our students already have a permission slip on file.
The purpose of this trip was to continue to create a consideration list of books that met our purchasing goals. We already did this with Jim Boon from Capstone Publishers before the break. When we arrived at Avid, we met with Hannah DeCamp, who manages the Children’s Department. Students sat on the book boat and in the floor while Hannah book talked several recent books that fit our goals. She even made a personalized book budget handout with books broken down into our goal categories. Wow!
Next, Hannah gave students an overview of the different sections that they might browse for this project: board books, picture books, early readers, juvenile nonfiction, kids graphic novels, and middle grade. Since Avid Bookshop serves all readers, we had to remind students that some books might fit our goals but not elementary-age readers.
Next, students browsed the store. As they discovered books that fit our goals or books that were of high interest to Barrow readers, they came to my computer where we scanned the ISBN into a spreadsheet and typed the title/price of the book. Again, students didn’t worry about cost at this point. They simply captured all the titles we were interested in.
We also reminded students that Avid can order pretty much any book we would want so students added some books to our list that were requested by students and we couldn’t get from Capstone Publishers.
Some students also brought money to shop so for the last step students made their purchases. Hannah gave all students an Avid bookmark and she sent us away with several Advance Reader Copies to browse back at school.
Before we returned to school, we met together outside and debriefed our experience. One of the things that I shared with students is how important Avid Bookshop is in our community. I reminded students about all of the authors & illustrators who visit our school. Each time those authors/illustrators visit, it is because of Avid Bookshop and every book that students purchase for those visits comes right from this store. We talked about how Avid gives us a small discount as a school, but they give us so much more because they are part of our community and support our school and community by bringing authors and illustrators for us to learn from.
Back at school, students took time to review the Advance Reader Copies of books and we added a few more books to our list.
We’ve reached a very hard part of our project. Next week, students will meet to comb through our lists and make difficult decisions about what we purchase and what we cut from our lists. I can’t wait to hear their conversations and see their decisions.
After surveying over 300 students in our school about their reading interests, our student book budget team set some purchasing goals for this year. A group of students met to examine the data and see what it was telling us about our library and our readers. The genres that received the biggest amount of votes was of course noticeable to the students, but they also paid attention to sections of the library that didn’t get many votes and wondered why. We had a great conversation about how those sections might need more books to be more noticeable or maybe we might do something to bring attention to those sections like a reading challenge or BTV announcement. This was the first year that the student book budget team spent so much time talking about sections that didn’t get many votes on the survey, and I was very proud that they made this noticing and took time to discuss it.
Eventually, they decided to focus their attention on some specific sections for this year’s budget.
humor (picture and chapter)
ghosts and mysterious things (information)
animals (picture and information)
fun facts (information)
historical fiction (chapter)
I sent these goals to Jim Boon, our sales rep with Capstone. He began curating a collection of books from Capstone that met our needs as well as sent us a Capstone catalog for each student. We scheduled time to meet with him in person.
Before Jim’s Visit
We held one book budget session before we met with Jim. This gave me time to show students the Capstone catalogs and get familiar with them. It also allowed me time to show students how to use the barcode feature in the catalog to help make lists. I setup a book budget list in my Capstone account and students practiced scanning the barcode in the catalog to add books to our list. I showed students how the website would show if we already had a book and how to deselect books and save the updated changes.
We also used this 1st session to talk about our purchasing goals and the importance of staying focused on those goals as we looked at so many tempting books.
During Jim’s Visit
Jim arrived early and setup a display table of books. He divided his books into 2 displays: fiction and nonfiction. I put a catalog and list of goals at each chair. Typically, I meet with grade levels separately, but for Jim’s visit, I got permission from teachers to bring all students together at the same time. About 39 of our book budget students signed up to meet with Jim.
I gave a quick reminder about our goals and turned things over to Jim. He showed students his displays and some features of the catalog like the index and page headings. He also encouraged students to look at the books in the display and then look for the additional books in the series in the catalog. He had students put their names on their catalogs and encouraged them to circle items and fold pages they were interested in. We didn’t want a massive line of 30 kids waiting to scan barcodes, so folded/marked pages will help us come back to those selections. Students could still scan into the list, but we can also work on this another day. We also reminded students not to worry about our budget at this stage. They should look for books that fit our goals and look interesting for the readers at our school.
I asked for a student volunteer to run our computer and scanner. This student was responsible for managing the small line of students waiting to scan books into the list. They deselected books already in our collection and saved changes along the way. This allowed me to walk around and have conversations with students looking at books and catalogs.
Jim was great about moving from table to table and having one-on-one conversations with students. He helped them find things in the catalog and talked about the books in the display. He was really good at keeping up with who he hadn’t had a chance to chat with yet and tried to make it to as many of the students as possible during our time.
After about 45 minutes, we wrapped up our time and thanked Jim for coming to visit us. I asked for some volunteers to come back for a follow up session.
In the end, there were lots of books students were excited about. Here are a few:
the continuation of the Far Out Fairy Tales
Michael Dahl’s Phobia series
the Ghosts and Hauntings series
Hands on Science Fun series which includes a book on making slime
the Real Life Ghost Stories series
the Mythical Creatures series
Graphic History: Warriors
Expert Pet Care
Michael Dahl’s Screams in Space
Boo Books series
A group of 3 students returned to look through the catalogs for books that were marked. They scanned these books into our consideration list too. I was amazed at how fast this went. They were very focused on our purchasing goals and only added books that were marked AND fit our goals. We also looked through the list for duplicate books that got scanned in twice and clean up the list.
Once we leave for winter break, our Capstone consideration list will be ready for the next step: the budget. We will visit our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop, first, and make a consideration list with them too. Once both lists are made, a group of students will have some negotiations to decide which books make the final list for ordering.
It’s that time of year again when I hand over the profits from our book fair to a group of 3rd-5th graders. These students work together through a process to purchase new books for our library that are based on the interests and requests of students in our school. Each year, this project grows and changes and this year brought some of the biggest changes we’ve had in a while.
To apply to be in the group, students watch a short introductory video in class and then fill out a Google form that asks for their name, why they want to be in the group, and whether or not they are willing to make the commitment to finishing the project if they start it. I keep the application open for one week and then have responses automatically turn off.
This year over 60 students applied to be in the group. This is the most I’ve ever had, and I truly try each year to include every student who applies as long as they are willing to make the commitment to being in the group. Even if I met with groups separately by grade level, there would be moments where I might have 40 students trying to make decisions about books.
I really stressed over what to do because I really didn’t want to choose some students and turn others away. I decided to put the dilemma back to the students by giving them a list of all the tasks that needed to be done across the entire project. I asked them to select which ones they were most interested in. They could certainly check every box but they could also just choose 1 or 2 that interested them. This decision really helped because it dropped the number of students I would have at one time to a more manageable amount.
The tricky part for me was organizing the students so that I could easily let them know what days to come as well as remind their teachers. I made a spreadsheet with each task and copied student email addresses and teachers into the sheet. As we approach each task, I can just copy of paste the emails to send a message to students and teachers to remind them when to come to the library. Students come during their recess time on these select days which means 10:45-11:15 for 3rd grade, 11:00-11:30 for 4th grade, and 11:45-12:15 for 5th grade. The overlap of grades 3 & 4 is another tricky piece this year but we are going to do our best to make it work.
Meeting 1: Creating a Survey
Our 1st group of students agreed to work on a survey to ask students in our school what kinds of books they want to see more of in the library. To begin, students spent some time walking around our library to see what they noticed about the sections. For example, which sections were packed with books? Which shelves looked empty?
Next, I made a copy of last year’s student interest survey and quickly went through all of the questions asked last year. In pairs or small groups, students talked about what they liked and didn’t like about the survey as well as what new ideas they had. I tried to listen in to their discussions and then we had a discussion as a whole group.
I was really impressed with their conversations and ideas. They talked about the length of the survey and how they could make it more concise. They asked me questions about how last year’s survey worked out. One of my noticings from previous years was how some of our younger students tend to say that they like every section of the library. The book budget students had a long discussion of how they might limit the responses to get students to focus more on what they really wanted to add to the library. After much debate, they finally agreed to break the survey into our picture book, chapter book, and information sections and select 2 genres in each section that needs more books. This was a very different take on the survey from what we’ve done in the past and I look forward to seeing how it impacts our final results. The students also wanted better pictures of each genre section so the younger students could see the genre sign and some example books from each section rather than a picture of the whole section from far away.
I took all of the student ideas and modified our Google Form survey. I emailed the survey to 3rd-5th grade teachers to share with students in Google Classroom. Then, I created a QR code for our book budget team to scan in order to survey our younger grades with iPads.
About 30 students signed up to help survey younger students in our school. They came to the library and scanned the QR code using the camera app. Students went to the lunchroom and surveyed K-2 students while they ate lunch. The book budget students asked the questions, showed the genre pictures on the iPad, and typed out any short answers students had for questions. Each survey was submitted and then students pulled up a fresh survey to ask the next student.
On our first day, we had already surpassed 200 students surveyed through email and iPads. We continued this same process on day 2 by making a BTV announcement to remind grades 3-5 to complete the survey and again visiting lunch to survey the lower grades.
I loved watching the professionalism of our book budget students. They asked permission to survey students, focused on listening to and inputting all of their answers, and thanked them for their thoughts. The lunchroom monitors even commented on how much more peaceful the lunchroom was having something for the students to do while they ate. I was worried we would add a layer of chaos to lunch, so it was great to hear that it actually helped.
It was also fun to see the book budget students interact with our younger learners. Some of our younger students had trouble verbalizing what they wanted more of in the library, and the book budget students naturally altered the questions to try to make them easier to understand. This surprised me. I was worried that I didn’t spend enough time talking about how to be professional and flexible, but students naturally adjusted and rolled with any challenges they faced in surveying.
As survey results roll in, we can check our Google charts to see how many of each grade level we have surveyed. This helps us know if we need to focus more on a specific grade so that there is a relatively equal number of data from each grade level.
Our next steps will involve analyzing the data we have and setting some goals for the kinds of books we want to purchase. So far we are off to a busy but great start and many more students are adding their voices to the project.
After surveying our entire school, analyzing data, setting goals, meeting with vendors, creating consideration lists, and narrowing down orders to meet their budget, the hard work of our student book budget team has paid off. All books from our 3 vendors have arrived and it’s time to get these books out into the hands of readers.
The book budget team met to unpack the books. Across 90 minutes, all of our books from Capstone and Gumdrop were checked on the packing slip, sorted into genres, labeled with genre stickers, and scanned into subcategories in Destiny. Every student on the team took a role in the process and I walked around to assist with questions and tricky genre decisions. I also helped students make sure they were sorting books into the right categories such as chapter book, picture book, or informational book.
Our books from Avid had to be cataloged so I “volunteered” to do this step for the students and some of our library volunteers have helped with getting the barcodes and plastic wrap on the books.
The book budget team met one final time to display the books for readers to see. It was hard for us to find a time to meet to get the books displayed so we all came one morning right after morning broadcast before our school day started. Students worked efficiently to get all of the books displayed in the windows, counters, and tables in the library. It was amazing to see all of the books out together and see all of our hard work pay off.
The real payoff comes when the book budget students get to check out some of the books and then see the rest of the school pour in to the library to check out books. It doesn’t take long for the tables full of books to be reduced down to a couple of tables and then a single table. These books are always popular with readers and I love knowing that our library collection truly is “our collection”. We build it together.
Our student book budget team has made quite a long list of books to consider for this year’s student book budget purchase. So far, they have met with Capstone and Gumdrop Books. Our local independent bookstore is within a mile of our school, so we also take a walking field trip to Avid Bookshop.
I split the group into two days. Third and Fourth grades went one day and Fifth grade went another day. Before we walked, we reminded ourselves about the types of books we were looking for. We also reminded ourselves that we were in a place of business so we needed to be respectful of the space and the other customers.
When we arrived, we snapped a quick photo in front of the shop.
Kate Lorraine, bookseller, met us at the back of the bookshop and gave us some book talks on picture books, informational books, graphic novels, and middle grade books that met our purchasing goals. We also showed students where these areas were located in the store so that they didn’t venture into adult sections for our list of books.
We took some shelf markers with us so students could remember where books went on the shelf. Each time a book was found to be of interest, students checked with me to see if we already had it in the library. If we didn’t, they scanned the ISBN into a spreadsheet on my computer and added the title and price. Again, we weren’t worried about cost at this point, we were just adding books of interest.
I loved that students could check with the Avid booksellers for information on prices, age ranges of books, series sequence, and more. They are so used to asking me questions, that sometimes I had to remind them that the Avid booksellers were there to help us and were happy to answer questions.
As usual, it was a challenge to stay focused in a bookshop with so many interesting books and gifts to look at. Students had a chance to look all around, but did need reminders to stay focused on our most important task of finding books. I also noticed that our oldest readers also needed reminders to visit the picture book sections in addition to the areas that they were most attracted to.
I have some more thinking to do around these walking visits. Avid has such a great selection of titles to look at and I feel like students could have spent more time really looking at what was there. Maybe I need to assign certain students to certain sections. Maybe there needs to be more guidance on how many books they should try to evaluate. I don’t want to take power away from the students, but I do want to equip them with some tools to help them get the most out of their visit to this useful resource in our community.
Now, we are at our most challenging task, which is cutting down our lists to fit our budget. Wish us luck.