When Vendors Listen to Students

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Student voice is important to me. I love to find opportunities where students’ voices are listened to, and even more than that, acted upon.  Recently, during a student book budget meeting, we met with Jim Boon from Capstone.  Jim always listens to students and makes sure they have what they need in order to purchase books for the library.  He lets them guide the conversation and answers any questions they have rather than pushing certain titles that they aren’t interested in.

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During his recent visit, he gave students posters at the end as a thank you, and Adaline, a 5th grade student book budget member, asked if there were ever any World War I posters.  Rather than just saying “no”, Jim listened to her reasoning that war and military books are popular in our school and that she had a personal interest in them herself. He suggested that she send an email to Amy Cox, Capstone Library Marketing Manager.

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Adaline immediately crafted an email to Amy, and the conversation began.  Not only did Amy respond to Adaline, she also asked her follow-up questions and genuinely wanted to know the answers.  In the busy world of businesses, this kind of personal interaction says a lot to me about the vision and mission of a company.  Capstone isn’t just about selling books. They are community and customer focused and want to listen to the very people who they are trying to support.

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Here’s how the conversation started:

Dear Amy Cox,
When Jim Boone came to my schools “Book Budget” we got posters with hedgehogs on them. While I was looking at the poster I had an idea! Since I like to read about World War 2 maybe you could make a World War 2 poster! If you take this into consideration please email Mr.Plemmons  so he can tell me! Thank You!
From,
    Adaline
Then Amy responded:

Dear Adaline,

We would be very happy to consider a poster with a World War II theme. When we make a poster, we try to have it do one of two things:

1)      They feature a specific series of books that we think students would like to know about so that they can read them, or

2)      Like the hedgehog posters, they don’t talk about a specific book but rather try to show how much fun it is to find something you like to read

Do you have any thoughts about which direction we should take for a World War II poster? I’m always happy to hear ideas from other people. When everyone shares ideas, the final project always turns out so much better.

I was so proud of Adaline continuing the conversation in addition to all of her other school responsibilities.

Dear Amy Cox,
I  think the books that the poster could be about could be the series Heroes of World War 2 !  I think that the poster should have something related to the Nazis or maybe even Anne Frank! And yes I have seen the new graphic novels! They look amazing!
                        Adaline
Amy moved the conversation to the Capstone team.

Dear Adaline,

Thank you for your response. I’m so happy that you like the Heroes of World War II books. I think those stories are fascinating.

The idea of World War II heroes got us thinking here at  Capstone—perhaps in a different direction than you would expect, but that is the fun of brainstorming, right? Give us several days and we’ll see if we can come up with something interesting. Can you search your library catalog and see if you already have this book? It has a tiny clue about our idea!

Finally, Amy let us know to expect something in the mail.  When the box arrived, I couldn’t wait to see what was inside.  To my surprise, Amy had sent 3 custom signs that incorporated history as well as the mission of the student book budget group to get the right books in student hands.

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I immediately sent a note down to Adaline so that she could come up and see how Capstone had listened to her ideas and given us something completely based upon her request.  She was all smiles.  I also loved that her grandmother was here to celebrate the moment with her.  Even though she might not want the attention, I think it’s important to celebrate this moment.  Now her efforts will be on display as our student book budget books arrive.  These signs will be a part of our student book budget display.

This is not the first time that Capstone has reached out and supported a specific student.  Last year, Amy supported Ajacea in her marketing interests.

I hope other students will see this as an opportunity to speak up and make their voices heard when they have an idea, and I hope educators and companies will see this as an opportunity to amplify student voice and make a difference in our world no matter how small.

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Thank you Amy Cox and Capstone for always supporting the student book budget project and always listening to (and acting upon) the voices of students.

Student Book Budgets and Real World Connections: Empowering Student Voice

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We have continued to unpack our student book budget purchases this weeks thanks to generous funding from James Patterson. Each year, there are stories that rise to the surface about students who take a stand for other student requests, students who find a certain talent within the many pieces of book budgets, and students who suddenly find a real world connection through our project.

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This year as we unpacked, I was taking pictures and videos as I always do. I just happened to be near Ajacea, 5th grader, when she was setting up displays of books for people to see. She would set up some books and then take them down because she didn’t like the way they looked. Then, she suddenly decided to start putting the books on the little ledge in the wall of windows that faces the hallway. She talked out loud about how the books should face out so that people would see them as they walked down the hallway. I snapped a few pictures of her inside the library and also through the windows and shared those on social media.

Immediately, I got a tweet back from Amy Cox at Capstone Press, one of the main companies we order from for our book budget project. Her comment started a chain of events.

I loved that Amy used the word “marketing” when she tweeted back to us because it was a real-world connection to an actual career. Whether Ajacea knew what she was doing was called marketing or not, it was intuitive for her, and we were able to connect an interest she had to an actual career path that she might not have ever considered.

By the end of the day, I observed multiple students passing by Ajacea’s windows and stopping to look at the books. They were pointing, talking, and asking their teacher if they could come to the library. Most of the books were checked out from the windows in just about an hour. When I shared this, once again Amy from Capstone responded.

Ajacea stopped by at the end of the day and I told her that Capstone was impressed with her work and wanted her to be a marketing intern.  She was beaming and said they should call her. I added this conversation exchange to my post about unpacking our books, and once again Amy Cox connected with us.

I had no idea what the email would contain, but I knew it would be something special and that Ajacea would love it. Right before Ajacea arrived to unpack and display more books, the email arrived. It contained an official “honorary marketing intern” certificate as well as a personalized tour of Capstone to see just what a marketing intern would do and where she would go.

Before I presented Ajacea with the award, I was showing her places in the library where students had been displaying books while she was gone. Some of the books had been placed on tables in the center of the library. She immediately started analyzing the situation and decided that the tables were just not going to work.  “People need to use those tables,” she said. I explained that the rest of the day’s classes were working in different parts of the library. Her response, “Well what about tomorrow?” She was right of course. The next day I needed all of the tables, so she started moving some of the books to new places.

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Before our time ran out, I asked Ajacea to come over to the tables to see something awesome. I told her about all of the response from Capstone and that they sent her some things to see.  I presented her with her award and let her know that the Capstone team put together an official tour of the Capstone offices in the event that she became an intern with them. “They seriously did that for me?” was her response. We put the tour up on the big screen and sat together and chatted about what we saw.

Ajacea saw what it would look like if she walked in the front door of Capstone. She also got to see her desk, which she was very happy with. It was so big a spacious.

The presentation continued on with explanations of the types of jobs she would do as a marketing intern such as work on the Capstone catalog and analyze the data of PebbleGo users. She saw meeting rooms and offices of the CEO and other employees. When she saw the CEO office, she said, “I would not want to go in there. It’s scary.” We had a great conversation about what it’s like to go into the office of your boss and the nervous feelings you get even when it’s usually for something that you did that’s awesome.

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As we ended our time, we talked about what she was thinking about doing when she grew up. She told me how she wants to be a designer, any kind of designer. She loved the bookshelves on the wall at Capstone and said maybe she wanted to design spaces like that. She talked about clothes and the possibility of designing fashion. Her wheels were turning and it was so much fun to see and learn a student story that I had not heard before. It reminded of me of how much I was I had more time where I got to hear individual students stories and what I need to do to make sure I have more time to do that.

Capstone is filled with amazing individuals, and I can’t thank them enough for taking time out of their day to put this together for one student. You can tell that they are a company that is constantly reminding themselves about why they do the work that they are doing.

 

 

 

The Student Book Budget Books Have Arrived!

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After almost two months of working on the 2015-2016 student book budget project, the books are rolling in to the library, and the excitement is brewing. This year’s budget was made possible thanks to a grant from James Patterson. Students had $5,000 to spend on books. They created a survey, surveyed the school, analyzed the results, set goals, met with vendors, compiled wish lists, cut lists to match our budget, and helped order the books.

Now the books are arriving, so students are meeting once again to go through the process of unpacking, inspecting, and marketing the books.

We have many more books than usual, so it is taking a bit longer to unpack the books. So far, we have books from Capstone and Gumdrop. Students came in by grade level for 30-minute shifts. Each company required a different process. This was mainly because we opted to not have full processing on Gumdrop books so that they would ship faster. I’m sort of regretting that decision, but it’s giving students an additional experience.

For Gumdrop, students had to apply the barcode, spine labels, and label protectors. This was tedious work for them to locate the correct labels for the correct books, and they passed this job off as often as they could since it was so time consuming. This process is still not complete, so no Gumdrop books have gone out to readers yet. We need to finish labels and check books off of the packing slip.

For Capstone, our books were already processed and ready to go. All students needed to do was unpack them, check them off the packing slip, and stamp them with the library stamp.

Additionally, Capstone let each book budget member choose one book that was their personal pick. They also sent us labels that could be put into the front of these books so that students could write their names to remind readers who selected those books.

The crew loved locating their books and applying the labels. As an added treat, they were the first to check out these books.

One student took it upon herself to start displaying the books while everyone else worked on all of the other tasks. Ajacea cleared out spaces in  the front of the library and started standing up books. If she didn’t like the way it looked, she took it all down and started over. I saw her do this more than once.

Finally, she had the idea of maximizing display space by putting books in the windows of the library facing out to the hall. There was room to put a top level and bottom level of books. She also used some of our library cushions, tables, and counter space.

It was a prime time for setting up a display because many classes were leaving lunch and walking right by the library. I saw many conversations happening in the hall about the books, and it wasn’t long before those same students were rushing back to the library to checkout what they saw.

There were moments of frantic grabbing when a whole class ended up coming to check out. The books were only on display for a little more than an hour and I would say at least half of the displayed books were checked out.

Students will come once again tomorrow to finish the books we have, and then they will reconvene when our order from Avid Bookshop arrives. I’m always inspired by how proud students are when they see their hard work pay off on unpacking day. They realize that the time they sacrificed was worth it to add more books to the library. They love getting the first look at the books, and they are amazed when the books fly off the shelves.

Ajacea stopped by at the end of the day to see what happened to her display. She had told me earlier in the day that her job would be ongoing because she would need to refill the empty spots. Her mouth dropped when she saw just how empty the windows were at the end of the day.

Our friend Amy Cox with Capstone Press followed along with our day on Twitter, and Ajacea was so proud when Amy said that she would be a great marketing intern.

Ajacea’s response? “Tell her to call me.” I love the real world implications of this project and how many times it has given an opportunity to students to explore their interests and realize that their voice is heard and matters. Bravo student book budget team!

 

Students and Vendors: A Student Book Budget Project with Capstone Press

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We just finished week 2 of student book budgets.  During this week, students have analyzed the data from over 300 students who answered our reading interest survey.  They used the summary of results in Google forms and also printed out a list of specific books that students requested.  They used both of these tools to create a list of goals for purchasing as well as a list of things to consider while selecting books.

This year we will focus primarily on comics/graphic novels, sports, animals, scary stories, games, and how to do things. We will also focus some on music and humor/jokes.

Goal-setting based on our survey data

We haven’t specifically decided how to split up our $5,000 James Patterson grant, but the discussion has started.  It seems like more money is going to go to our top 3 goals and the remaining money will be split to the other goals.  However, that is still being decided.

Once our goals were established, I started sending out invites to vendors to come and meet with students.  We have 3 vendors we will be working with this year: Capstone Press, Gumdrop, and Avid Bookshop (our local independent bookstore).

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This week, students met with Jim Boon of Capstone Press.  Jim and Capstone have been longtime supporters of this project.  Jim ships in catalogs ahead of time so that each student gets a catalog.

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He also brings in a selection of books and divides them into fiction and nonfiction.  Most of these books meet the needs of our goals, but there’s of course a few tossed in just for fun for students to look at.  Jim usually brings in some fun posters and things for the students as well, which makes them feel very special.  This year, students are adding books to our Capstone consideration list that match our goals, but students are also able to pick one book of their personal choice to add to the library.  These books will get a special sticker with each student’s name designating who chose the book for the library.

Each grade level group came in for 30 minutes.  Jim met with them at a table first to go over things like Capstone rewards, how to use the catalog, and how to scan books from the catalog straight into a consideration list.

I love how Jim talks directly to the students instead of me.  They are the customers for this project, and he is meeting their needs and expectations.

After orienting at the tables, students start looking at all of the books that Jim brought in as well as using their catalogs to locate the books.

When students find books in the catalog that are for consideration, they fold down the corners of the pages until they can come to the computer to scan the books into our list.

Once we scan the barcode in the Capstone catalog, that entire series is added to our list.  We then take a look to see which of the books on the list we already own.  Students decide if they think we need an extra copy or if we should uncheck books we already own.  Then, we save the cart.

After one pass through the books and catalogs, our students have added 116 titles to our Capstone consideration list for a total of $2,267 .

This number will of course grow and will be added to our other 2 vendors.  Then, we’ll work to narrow our lists to meet our goals and our budget.

As always, thanks to Capstone, Jim Boon, Amy Cox, and Eric Fitzgerald for their support with this project each year. I can’t wait for the many conversations we will have about these books in the coming weeks.

Creating Wish Lists with Capstone Press: A Next Step in Student Book Budgets

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Jim Boon from Capstone Press has been doing student book budgets with me since the beginning.  Each year things change just a bit, and Jim naturally adapts right along with me.  This year, we have our largest group of students working simultaneously so it gets noisy fast.  The most challenging thing is making sure that every voice is heard and that all members of the book budget group are engaged.  I love bringing in Jim because he masterfully listens to all students.  He makes connections with them and even remembers them from year to year if they have been part of the group before.  The students in turn have come to know him.  The returning students welcome him back and the new ones quickly learn why we bring him back every year.

Ahead of Jim’s visit, I email him some possible dates to visit.  We establish a time and he mails catalogs for all of the students to use on the day of his visit. Once we have our purchasing goals, I share those with him as well.  He sets up a big selection of Capstone books for students to look at that match the goals that they have set.  He even divides the books into 2 displays: fiction and nonfiction.

Jim does a very short explanation of what students have in front of them. He shows them how to look for books in the index and as well as how books a grouped together. He shows them that the displays might only have one book from an entire series that they can find in the catalogs. He shows them where to find prices for individual books as well as complete sets.  He shows them how each set of books has a barcode in the catalog that can be scanned straight into a wishlist on capstonepub.com  This scanning feature puts the entire series into the list, but then you can go in an uncheck the books that you don’t want to add.

Finally, Jim talks to students about current promotions that Capstone is offering that might stretch their budget even more. I love this part because it helps students think about how they might invest their money or how they might request extra money from me in order to take advantage of a promotion.  This discussion usually doesn’t happen on this particular day, but I always love seeing their wheels turning as they give me reasons why we should spend our money a certain way.

The fun begins when students leap into action. They take books from the display back to their tables and look through them.  They peruse the catalogs.  This is the point where it is hard to stay focused on our purchasing goals.  With a catalog of hundreds of pages, there are so many interesting books that don’t match what we said we were going to buy, and students easily slip into what they personally want to buy rather than what the whole school wants.  I don’t really worry about this very much during our first day with catalogs. Instead, I give a few reminders to think about our goals, but I know that we will revisit the entire list when we make cuts to match our budget.

As students find books that they want to add to the wishlist, they begin forming a line at my computer. I pull up a student book budget list on capstonepub.com and students scan the barcode in their catalogs.  We uncheck all of the books in the series that they don’t want to keep and then save the list.

At this point we don’t worry much about money, but when a student scans a series of 32 books and says that they want to add all of them, I do let them know how much all 32 books would cost.  Most of the time, the student is shocked and quickly narrows down to a few books that they really want to add.

Across an hour, students made a wish list with 161 titles totaling $3071.91.  Capstone is not our only vendor we are working with, so we are definitely going to have to cut some titles from this list.  We will meet 4 more times to add more titles, revisit our goals to see that they are all represented, and finally narrow our list down to the budget we have agreed upon.

We thank Capstone Press and Jim Boon for their continued support of his project.  We appreciate that this company listens to students as well as offers a rewards program that allows us to stretch our student budget even more.