2018 Student Book Budget: First Steps

It’s time for one of my favorite projects of the year: Student Book Budget. Every year, I reserve a part of the library budget that is under complete control by students. This budget comes from many places.  Sometimes it’s a grant and other times it is part of our regular budget.  This year their budget comes from the profit we made from book fair.  The book budget is their chance to make sure that books are added to our library that represent their interests.  They go through a long process to make sure that many voices are represented in their purchases.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing their process.  Here are some of the steps that are already happening.

First, I created a Google form application for students to apply to be in the group.  The form was available for one week for students in grade 3-5.  Every student who applied and had a genuine reason for being in the group was accepted.  Our group this year is 40 students strong and has a great mix of boys and girls.

Next, we held our 1st meetings. I met with each grade level group separately and answered all of their questions about the group. Then, in small groups or pairs, they brainstormed things that they thought we should ask on a reading interest survey for the whole school.

Then, I took their ideas and put them into a Google form survey.

I sent the survey to all of the students on the book budget team so that they could review it and decide if it matched their comments.  We made some minor adjustments and were ready for the school to be surveyed.

I sent the survey via email to our 3rd-5th grade students who each have their on device. The Student Book Budget Team was responsible for surveying Prek-2nd grade. On our 2nd meeting, we scanned QR codes to get to the survey on an iPad and went to recess and lunch to survey as many people as possible.

The students were so professional and I loved standing back and watching them work.  It truly was their project and they were taking it very seriously.

In just one day, we have already surveyed 216 students.  We will continue this process and then take the next step of looking at the results.  I love how we can check along the way to see which grades need to be surveyed more so that we have a somewhat even distribution of voices.

Be on the lookout for our next steps.  We are off to a great start.

Students and Vendors: Meeting with Gumdrop Books

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Our student book budget team is still hard at work compiling consideration lists to match their goals.  Today, they met as grade levels with Gret Hechenbleikner from Gumdrop Books.  This year, we are using 3 vendors for our purchasing.  Students already met with Jim Boon from Capstone Press, and they will meet with Will Walton from Avid Bookshop later this week.

Our process with Gumdrop was slightly different than Capstone since Gumdrop doesn’t have a scan to cart feature or a catalog.  Instead, Gret brings a selection of books for students to look at.  Inside each book, she has list of the other books that are found in that same series.  Students can get a taste for what the book looks and feels like and consider whether they might like other books in that same series.  Gret brought multiple books that matched the goals that students had set based on our survey data.  I sent these goals to her a couple of weeks in advance.

Gret did a quick intro of what she had brought and told students about the lists inside each book.  She setup her computer and printer at a table and students started looking at all of the books.  She and I both walked around and talked with students about what they were looking at and asked them to consider whether or not students at our school would enjoy the book they were looking at.  When students found a book or set of books they wanted to add to our consideration list, they took it to Gret at her computer.  She was able to pull up the complete series on her computer, check to see if we already had the book in our collection, and add it or a set of books to our consideration list.  When books came up that we already had, Gret and I asked them to think about whether we might need an additional copy.  Most of the time students said no, but they did decide to add another Frozen drawing book to our list.

Every 30 minutes a new group of students came to meet with Gret.  We even had a few random students who dropped by the library to check out books who offered their own feedback.  When all students were done, Gret printed a master list for us to talk about when we meet our budget.  She will also email me a PDF of the list that I can manipulate.

I always love this process of meeting with vendors because I put all of my trust in the students.  Even when a vendor may ask me about things I want to add to the collection, I remind them that this is completely up to the students.  I’ll do my purchasing with other money and other lists.

Students have quite a job to do next week.  We currently have 2 different lists which total more than $3,000 each and we have one more vendor to meet with.  Our $5,000 budget, which is a grant through the James Patterson Partnership, will definitely not be enough to purchase all that they want, so some tough decisions will have to be made.  This is all an important part of the process.

 

We are Honored to Receive a James Patterson Partnership Grant!

Back in March, James Patterson and Scholastic announced an incredible opportunity for school libraries around the country.  From the official press release:

March 9, 2015 — New York, NY — As part of an ongoing effort to keep books and reading a number one priority in the United States, James Patterson has announced that he will donate $1.25 million to school libraries this year. In the first-ever partnership of its kind, Patterson is joining forces with Scholastic Reading Club to administer funding applications to their network of 62,000 schools and 800,000 teachers. Scholastic will match each dollar with “Bonus Points,” which teachers can use to acquire books and other materials for their classrooms, at every school that receives an award. Applications to nominate a school library for a donation can be found here: www.scholastic.com/pattersonpartnership.

James Patterson is donating this money because he believes that fewer children are growing up in a household full of books – and that the effects of this absence could have a profound impact on a child’s future, and on the future of our country. Every child in America should have access to books and a functioning school library, and he believes that improvements in school libraries will foster children’s love of reading and boost their academic achievement overall.
I immediately took advantage of this opportunity by writing a 300 word or less application for our library. My hope was to get a $10,000 grant to support our student book budget project.  Here’s what I wrote:
Each year, I reserve $1000 in the library budget for a project called “Student Book Budgets”. This money is completely controlled by students to purchase books for the library that matches the reading interests of the entire school. Over time, we have developed a dependable process.  A group of students is chosen based on a variety of criteria, including students who have trouble finding books.They create a survey in Google forms and use iPads to survey all grades.  The students analyze the data to see what the top reading interests are. They establish goals and divide the budget among these goals. We send our goals to library vendors who bring in matching book samples and catalogs. Students make wish lists that exceed our budget. Students narrow the list to match our budget. Tough decisions are made about which books to keep and eliminate. I order the finalized lists. While we wait, students come up with a marketing plan. The students unpack the books and get the honors of the first checkouts. Within hours of putting the books out, they are all checked out and remain among the most popular books.I have shared this process on the national level and many libraries have benefited from the idea. The problem with this process is that we obtain an entire school’s reading interests, but our limited budget only allows us to honor a few of them. If we have $10,000, we could expand our reach to include more student interests and not feel that all of our work creating lists of books is whittled away during the budget process. I am confident that we could spend the money in a way that values the reading interests of our entire school.
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In May, I received an email letting me know that I was a finalist for the grant, but I of course had to keep that a secret, which was very hard to do!  I submitted some additional info and waited some more. Then, in late May, my principal received the call.  Our library was award a $5000 grant from James Patterson with a $5000 matching grant from Scholastic Book Clubs, so we essentially have $10,000 between vendors of our choice and Scholastic Book Club to support our student book budget for the 2015-2016 school year.
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I plan to start this project very early in the school year and involve as many students as possible so that students can enjoy the books that we purchase throughout the school year.  Thank you James Patterson for believing in the power of libraries.  Thank you Scholastic for amplifying this opportunity and matching it with your own resources.  Congratulations to all of the libraries who received grants in this first round of announcements!  I can’t wait to share the news with this year’s book budget students and blog about our process in selecting books.
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Student Book Budgets: The Final Lists

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It has been a long road to the final book lists this year, but our student book budget group has done it!  They’ve taken over $4,000 worth of books and narrowed it down to our final order.  In the last moments, they chose to take advantage of Capstone’s incentive right now which is to spend $1750 and earn 30% in Capstone Rewards.  This stretched our budget to almost $2300 for Capstone and $250 for Avid Bookshop.  Our list from Avid was not quite as long for this first time working with them, so it was easier for students to decide to go with the Capstone incentive.

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After lots of debate, we narrowed the list down one book at a time until our dollar amount matched our budget and we felt like the books we included matched our goals.  We all got to take a deep breath because the hardest part was done.

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Next, I got to share some great news with the students.  Each year, Capstone is a huge supporter of our project.  We do lots of sharing of our work and it has inspired many other libraries to give this type of project a try.  In turn, Capstone loves to celebrate the work of the students and our willingness to share the work of our process.  This year, Amy Cox offered the students a tremendous opportunity.  Since they had made such tough decisions about books, she wanted them to each have a chance to pick a book for the library that they personally wanted to include on the list.  It didn’t have to match a goal; it just needed to be a book that mattered to that student.  You should have seen how fast they started flipping through catalogs when I shared the news!

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I made a separate list in Capstone for this order and we started adding in books.  We saw books come back onto the list that had to be cut as well as books that students had longed for as they looked at catalogs.  There were hilarious books such as the Space Penguins series but also prolific books such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  We can’t thank Capstone enough for this special surprise for our students and library.  It means so much.  We are even going to put special stickers inside to mark that the books were donated by the 2015 Student Book Budget group.

During our final meeting before ordering, we were able to Skype with Karyn Lewis in Houston, Texas.  She was inspired by our long-standing project to try this with her students.  She also worked with her Capstone representative.  It was fun to have our group who was about to place an order talk with her group who is still in the midst of making decisions.  The students were able to take turns telling about our work so far.  We immediately noticed the connections that our students had with the students in Texas.  Some of the same types of books were popular in both states, and graphic novels were high on the list.

Then, we did a screen share and showed them our list.  Many of Karyn’s students noticed that we had some of the same books on our list as they were including on theirs.  Both groups of students also got to ask questions to one another.  They asked about things like how the surveys were done.  The Texas students noted some trouble getting responses due to testing and other school events, and we shared that we experienced some of the same problems.  We were able to share some strategies we used for getting more responses such as going to lunch and surveying people while they ate.

After we disconnected, I showed the students what would happen with their order at this point.  Amy Cox at Capstone shared a great video with me that shows just what happens to that order when it reaches the warehouse.  It was fascinating for all of us to see so many books and how they fill an order.

When students left, I proceeded to send off their orders to the appropriate places.  Now, we get to take a breath and wait for the fun day when the books all come in.

Thank you so much to the Amy Cox, Jim Boon, and the whole Capstone team.

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Also, a huge thanks to Will Walton and Janet Geddis from Avid Bookshop.

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Our project would not be the same without all of this support.

I can’t wait to see how this project continues to grow and inspire other.  Just today a library in New Jersey shared how they are trying out the project too.  The students were so excited to consider themselves teachers of schools around the country.

Student Book Budgets: Building Wish Lists and Making Tough Decisions

narrowing (12)Our student book budget group is hard at work.  So far, they have made lists that total almost $4,000, but our budget is $2,000.  Isn’ t this the struggle that we all face with budgets?  How do you decide what to buy and what not to buy?

During our most recent session, we revisited our goals.  We decided based on our survey data to purchase books about

  1. Animals
  2. Sports
  3. Mystery
  4. Comics and graphic novels
  5. Action Adventure
  6. Horror/Scary
  7. Fantasy
  8. Humor
  9. “How to”
  10. Music
  11. Games/Video games

As we made wish lists, our excitement over so many wonderful books caused us to add several things to our list that really didn’t match our goals so we had to think about this.  Do we stick with our goals or do we give ourselves permission to buy whatever we want?  The general consensus was to stick to our goals but possibly have some extra additions here or there.

Since we are way over budget, we have a lot of work to do.  During the most recent work session, we divided the responsibilities.  We identified 3 things that needed to happen:

  1. Continue searching through the Capstone catalog for books that match our goals and adding them to the list
  2. Examine the current Capstone list to see what does not match our goal or what might need to be cut
  3. Continue searching for books that match our goals that could be purchased from Avid Bookshop

One group of students formed an independent group to work on the Avid list.  They used Avid’s website, Amazon, and Novelist to look for books that might be of interest.

The students in the Avid group accidentally lost part of a title on our list, so we consulted our friend Will Walton at Avid via Twitter.

The author of the book even jumped in on the conversation.

Another group of students worked with Mr. Coleman, a 4th grade teacher, to examine our existing list.  He was great at facilitating a conversation with this group.  Only one person at a time was in charge of the mouse to delete books from the list, but all students were engaged in conversation about the books.  As usual, it was heated at times and at other times there was quick consensus about a book.  They narrowed the list below $3,000, but they knew that another group was adding more books to the list.

I worked with the third group who each chose one of our goals and looked through the Capstone catalog for books that matched.  They once again used the easy scan feature to scan books into the list.  I had a great conversation with a student who was adding an animal book to the list.  She asked me, “Do you think this is a book that fits the nature category?”  It really seemed like she was just putting the book on the list because it matched instead of putting it on the list because she thought people would read it, so I asked her about that.  I asked, “Do you think this is a book that kids would be excited about reading?” She paused.  “Do you think this is a book that a teacher would assign someone to read?”  She said yes.  It was a good time for me to say that I strongly believe that the book budget group is a time for kids to buy books that they think kids will be excited about reading.  I can buy books that teachers can use or books that fill gaps in our collection at another time.  This budget is all about what students want.  She smiled and continued looking for a books that mattered to students.

At the end of our time, I don’t think we narrowed our cost at all, but we did get closer to finding books that matched our goals.  Our next step will be to look closely at our budget and the promotions that Capstone offers to consider what our budget really is.  With Capstone Rewards, we really have a lot more money because if you spend $1750 you get 30% in rewards.  This might help our decisions during our next meeting.

Students Meeting with Vendors: Book Talking with Avid Bookshop

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One of my favorite steps in the student book budget process is when the students get to meet real vendors and talk with them.  This year at the School Library Leadership Summit someone asked me if I ever used an independent bookshop as one of my vendors for student book budgets.  The answer was no, but this year we changed that.

I email Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop, and asked if she would like to be a part of this year’s project.  It was refreshing to hear that community outreach is actually a big part of her business plan, so she definitely wanted to be a part.  When our students had their purchasing goals created, I sent them to Will Walton at Avid Bookshop.  Will is an awesome bookseller and has his first novel coming out in May called Anything Could Happen.

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Will pulled several books from the shop and brought them to our book budget meeting.

I made a Google spreadsheet and shared it with all of the students.  The spreadsheet included a spot for title, author, price, and which goal the book matched.  Will put the books into various categories and started talking about each one.  If the book sounded interesting, then the students worked together to capture the details in the document.

I learned pretty fast that they needed to see the title, author, etc so I pulled Avid’s website up on the board and typed in each book as he talked.  The students could easily copy down the info while he talked.

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After talking through several titles, the students had lots of questions for him.  They had a great time just talking books with Will.  Several students branched off to do their own thing, so I decided to add another layer onto what they could do.

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We used our state database, Galileo, to pull up Novelist K-8 Plus.  I showed students how they could look at books by age range and genre.  Then, Novelist shows books that are similar to books that you have read and liked.  I suggested that they use Novelist to find books that sounded good and matched our goals, and then use Avid’s site to find the price and add to our spreadsheet.

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Mr. Coleman’s ELT group is joining us in this project and they plan to continue this process this week before we meet again on Monday.

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We are very grateful to Avid Bookshop for their support of students.  I loved how Will talked directly to them.  He asked them questions about books but also questions about how they planned to spend their money.  He posed interesting questions such as “Have you thought about paperback versus hardback?  The cost difference can be about $10.”  Students were shocked by the price difference but most agreed that they wanted hardback for durability in the library.  That was without any prepping or pushing from me.  I was amazed.  They said the extra $10 was worth it if the book lasted longer.

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I love how these types of conversations naturally surface.  You can’t force plan each one, but they usually come up at some point.  Soon, the students will meet with another vendor and start the hard process of cutting their wishlist to meet our budget.

2014 Student Book Budgets: Real-World Math Lessons from Capstone Press

decisions (1)Each year, I dedicate a portion of library funding for students to control.  Since the library is for all of our school community, I feel strongly that students should have a voice in what goes into the collection.  Here’s what has happened so far:

  • Students developed a Google form survey and surveyed most of the school on their reading interests
  • Students analyzed the results and developed a list of goals to focus on which included sports, graphic novels, humor, scary, world records, and action/adventure.
  • Students met with Jim Boon from Capstone Press and Gret Hechenbleikner from Gumdrop books to look at book samples and catalogs.

decisions (8)Since the visit with the vendors, the student book budget group has been coming into the library on Mondays and Wednesdays during their recess to continue looking at catalogs.  Much of what they wanted was in Capstone’s catalog, so their first step was to finalize what they wanted to order from Gumdrop.  They decided on a Ripley’s Believe It or Not series, a how to draw graphic novel series, a graphic mythical heroes series, and a history’s most haunted series.

decisions (2)When that was done, I hooked up the scanner to my computer and gave all of the students a Capstone catalog.  Capstone has a great feature where there is a barcode next to each set of books in the catalog.  You can scan the set straight into your cart, or you can scan the set and select the books that you want.  As students found books that matched our goals, they scanned the barcode and told me which books to add.  At that point, we didn’t worry about cost.  We wanted to add all of the books that we were interested in and then start narrowing.  This adding process was so smooth thanks to this scanning feature.  In the past, students have circled items in catalogs, written on pieces of paper, etc. and it took a lot of time to compile everything.  I loved that we were all adding to the same list as we worked.

decisions (6)Right now, Capstone is offering an incentive like they often do.  If you spend at least $1750, you get 30% back in Capstone Rewards.  If you spend less that $1750, you only get 10%.  This was a great math discussion.  Our original budget was $1500 for all of the book budgets.  However, if we spend just $250 more with Capstone, then we get $525 in free books.  I’ve really pushed the group to think about budget, but this was a great real-world example where you sometimes have to spend beyond your budget if it helps you in the long run.  The students unanimously agreed that we needed to spend the $1750 since we already had well beyond that amount in our wish list cart.  I pulled out all of the numbers that I had to think about in order to make this happen.  We looked at the remaining dollar amount in our district budget which was about $375.  Then, we looked at the remaining balance in our local account, which holds profits from our book fairs along with any donations we receive.  I told them about remaining expenses that I knew about for the year such as battle of the books.  We agreed that there was enough money to purchase our list from Gum Drop and extend our Capstone Budget to $1750.

decisions (3)The final task, which we are still working on, is to narrow our cart.  We started with a cart totaling almost $3000.  We knew that we needed to reduce the cart to about $2200 in order to spend $1750 in cash and use $525 in rewards dollars.  By the time we stopped talking about the math, students were all commenting on how hard this is.  One of them said, “You mean this is just a small part of what you do?”  I love that they keep bringing this up.  I love buying new materials, but I’ve been very honest with them about what a small fraction of my time this actually is.  As always, it was interesting to hear them wrestle with decisions about which books to cut from the list:

  • We have 3 books about drawing horses.  Let’s pick the one with the most horses that people are probably interested in.
  • Three of our war books cost $27.  Let’s pick something that doesn’t cost that much.
  • That book looks like it would only be for 5th graders.  It might scare other kids.  Let’s take it off the list.
  • We can’t buy every Jake Maddox book this time.  Let’s choose a few of them.

decisions (5)Every struggle they were having is the same struggles that I go through alone.  I loved being able to share this frustration with them, and they had a much better understanding of how I use math and decision making in my job.  My only wish is that more students could walk through this process with me.  Each year, I find new ways to involve different groups of students, but I would love to have larger groups of students involved in the math aspect.

decisions (6)Once we get our carts narrowed down, we will place our order and wait for the books to arrive.  Since I have extra Capstone Rewards dollars, I’ll also be able to add in some historical perspective books that I’ve been wanting to get for our many social studies projects.  While we wait, students will think about how to advertise the books to the school.decisions (7)