Students and Vendors: Meeting with Gumdrop Books

gumdrop  (12)

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.


Student Book Budgets 2015-16: Getting Started

surveying (1)

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.

First Week

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!

Barrow Media Center Blog: 2013 in Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 35,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Read for the Record 2013

read for record (2)What fun!  Today we participated in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record.   Since 2006, Jumpstart has been encouraging people around the world to break the record for the most people reading aloud the same book.  This year, the book was Otis by Loren Long.  We Give Books provided free access to this book for anyone who wanted to read it online.  At the same time you were reading for the record, you were also supporting book donations around the world.

Today, 4 classes at Barrow participated in the media center, while some others read the book in their own classrooms.  Each class was a bit different in what we did with the book.

Mrs. Clarke’s PreK class is studying cooperation.  We used Capstone’s PebbleGo Social Studies database to learn about the word cooperation.  Then, we gave examples from our own lives and classroom of how to cooperate.  As we read Otis aloud, we talked about how cooperation was shown in the book.  We also talked about how we were cooperating with people all around the world to read for the record.

Read for the Record through the years.

In Mrs. Watson’s 1st grade, we looked at the data  from Read for the Record through the years.  We also read about tornadoes on PebbleGo and made connections to Otis and the Tornado.  1st grade is studying weather along with their study of The Wizard of Oz so Otis and Otis and the Tornado were a perfect fit.

In Mrs. Wright’s 2nd grade class, we Skyped with Mrs. Lussier in Connecticut.  We had also connected with her 4th grade students during Talk Like a Pirate Day, so it was fun to reconnect.  We took turns reading pages in the book and then added to a friendship padlet.  Since October is bullying awareness month, we used Otis to talk about being kind and showing friendship rather than bullying.

Showing pictures to Mrs. Techman's students.

Showing pictures to Mrs. Techman’s students.

In Mrs. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class, we Skyped with Mrs. Techman in Charlottesville, VA.  I read the entire book to both classes and shared the pictures on the camera.  Our students stopped along the way and made predictions for one another.  We also took some time to tell about our own communities.  We looked at a map of how far away VA is and how long it would take to walk or drive.  Students wanted to know how long it would take to fly, so we pulled up a travel website and searched for a flight.  We also took time to add to the Padlet in this class, and Mrs. Techman’s class will add to it tomorrow.  Friendship Wall

While all of this was going on, I also tweeted the link to the padlet.  It was retweeted numerous times, so hopefully others will add to it.  Shawn Hinger and her students at Clarke Middle in Athens took time to add their own thoughts on friendship.  It was nice to have a middle school voice among the elementary ideas.  Andy Plemmons (plemmonsa) on Twitter

Once again, I was amazed by the power of connecting and how many standards can be woven into an event such as this.  I can’t wait to see what the record was set at today!



Student Book Budgets 2012-2013 (Part 2)

The lists are done and the orders are placed!  Twenty-seven 3rd-5th graders have worked very hard during their lunch time for the past week to create lists of books that are grounded in the results of their school-wide reading interest survey data.  Rather than type everything out here, I’ve made a screencast that shows you the survey, the data, the focus categories, and the final lists.  I invite you to listen:

I’m very proud of these students.  Although, doing this during lunch across multiple times and groups of students was literally and figuratively very messy, I liked the overall results.  As always, some amazing moments happened along the way like:

  •  A student standing up and telling the whole group not to think of themselves.  That they needed to keep in mind all of the students of the school.
  • A male student taking a stand for princess books being on the list because he personally heard from multiple students who desperately wanted more of those books in the library.
  • A group of 3 fifth graders debating whether or not to cut a graphic novel off of the list because it cost $26.00.  They talked for 15 minutes just about that one book.  They read reviews, considered popularity, examined quality, and checked circulation statistics for other books in that series.  (They decided to keep it on the list!)
  • Several students repeatedly went into Destiny to search for how many books we had in particular categories, which books were lost in a particular series, and how many copies we had of certain books like Wimpy Kid.

I’m thankful for Capstone Rewards, too, because I helped out some of our tough decisions by using $500 of free book credit to bump up our budget from $1200 to $1700.  Even with that bump, some very tough decisions were made to cut books that would have been equally as popular.  I look forward to seeing what this group comes up with to market these books to the school and how fast they get checked out!

Student Book Budgets 2012-13 (Part 1)

A snapshot of the form that students used to survey other students

A snapshot of the form that students used to survey other students

Once again, I have reserved a portion of our library budget for complete student control.  I have done this over the past three years and have come to value it so much that I plan to continue and improve upon the process.  So far, this year is proving to be one of the most interesting so far.  In the past, I’ve worked with groups of students as large as 40 and as small as 12.  This year, we have 27 students in grades 3-5 who have agreed to participate in this process.

This year, I created a Google form asking about some reading interests and gauging student interest in being a part of the book budget group.  I emailed the form to all students in the school.  In general, our 3rd-5th graders are the main students who check their email, so those were the students who responded.  Out of about 60 responses, I had about 40 students who were interested in being in the group.  I went through the list and tried to select a mix of boys, girls, grade levels, classrooms, backgrounds, and reading interests.  This narrowed the list to the 27 students.

I then got permission from the students’ teachers to allow them to be in the group.  Next, I blocked out some times on the library calendar.  Here’s the rough outline of what I did/planned to do:

  • 1/25:  Initial meeting with the whole group to lay the foundation of our work and edit the Google form that I started. We also claimed which grade levels we would each survey. This was done at the very beginning of the day when students would have been doing their morning meeting in the classroom.
  • 1/28-2/1:  As soon as students arrived at school, they got their netbooks out and pulled up our Google form.  Then, they surveyed their own class as well as one other grade level that they had chosen.
  • 2/1:  After surveying is done, email the results to all of the students so that they can begin looking at patterns.
  • 2/4, 2/8, & 2/11:  Students will meet in the library during their lunch.  We will narrow down the survey results and determine which specific books and categories of books we want to focus on.  Then, students will begin creating lists of books with our favorite vendors including:  Bound to Stay Bound, Capstone Press, and Follett
  • 2/12:  Finalize the lists and order the books.
  • While we wait on the books to arrive, some students might choose to work on some marketing strategies, but I won’t do this with every student in the group.
  • When the books arrive, schedule a meeting to unpack, stamp the books, and double check the packing slips.
  • Advertise the books on BTV and put them into circulation.
Students pulling up their Google Form to begin roaming the school.

Students pulling up their Google Form to begin roaming the school.

At our initial meeting, students did a great job adding to the form I had already started.  In the form, I asked about specific series of books, genres of books, and created a space for students to list specific books.  This was all based on what students are constantly asking for in the library so there were things like:  The Hunger Games, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, World Records, Rainbow Fairies, Ninjago, Lego, Princesses, etc.  The students decided to add a question about grade level and gender so that we could balance how many boys, girls, and students from different grade levels we surveyed.  They also added their own series and genres that I completely missed.  This is what I love about this participatory aspect.  It’s impossible for one person to know the reading needs of the entire school.  It has to be a collaborative effort.

During the week of 1/28-2/1, students surveyed as many students as possible.  I was amazed that by the end of the week they had surveyed over 400 students, which is almost every student in the school!  This is highest amount of students we have ever been able to survey in this project.  Almost every day, I emailed the students an update on how many students in each grade level we had surveyed.  This helped them focus their time.  I was also amazed by the decision making of many of the students.  They were careful not to disturb a classroom if the teacher had already started a morning meeting or a lesson.  They also came to the library to ask me my thoughts about where they might go next.  In the library, I watched the number of surveys steadily climb in the spreadsheet that Google Forms automatically creates.IMG_1689

On 2/1, I emailed the students the final results so that they can hopefully look over it before we  begin the messy process of making decisions this week.  I’ll do another post about the decision making process and book ordering, but for now here’s what we have to work with.  How would YOU narrow this down?

Prek 42 10%
K 58 14%
First 69 16%
Second 73 17%
Third 46 11%
Fourth 45 11%
Fifth 33 8%


Boy 207 49%
Girl 159 37%


Superheroes 129 31%
Princesses 92 22%
Graphic Novels (comics) 170 40%
Legos 172 41%
Star Wars 141 34%
Wrestling 96 23%
Ghosts 165 39%
Sports 206 49%
Poetry 124 30%
History 145 35%
Animals 232 55%
Paper airplanes 149 35%
Cars 144 34%
World Records 201 48%
Drawing 197 47%
Mystery 167 40%
TV shows 149 35%
How to 126 30%
Action 159 38%
Scary 177 42%
Myths & Legends 159 38%
Picture books 187 45%
Movies 185 44%


Hunger Games 161 39%
Rainbow Fairies 113 27%
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 211 51%
Guinness World Records 168 40%
Ninjago 174 42%
Disney Princesses 87 21%
Sisters Grimm 59 14%
Mo Willems books 90 22%
Captain Underpants 145 35%
Geronimo Stilton 104 25%
Magic Tree House 191 46%
Junie B. Jones 168 40%
Lunch Lady 141 34%
Babymouse 139 33%
Goosebumps 100 24%
Dr. Seuss 190 46%
Fashion Kitty 114 27%
Bad Kitty 142 34%
39 Clues 109 26%
Eragon 73 18%
Bone 111 27%
Genius Files 75 18%
Nancy Drew 95 23%
Corduroy 89 21%
Hardy Boys 114 27%
Percy Jackson 100 24%
Archie Comics 92 22%














Folktales with Google Forms

Third grade just launched into a study of folktales.  As a kickoff, each class came to the library for an introduction to folktales.  We used a slideshare that listed many elements of folktales as well as kinds of folktales.

Then, I showed students a Google form with 3 questions. This form was displayed while I read a folktale aloud. Question 1 was the title of the book.  Question 2 was a list of checkboxes that listed out all of the elements from the slideshare.  Question 3 was about what kind of folktale.folktales

At the end of the story, students paired and discussed each of the checkboxes to decide if those elements were present in the story that we read.  Finally, we came back together and checked off the elements that were present in the story.  Students raised their hands as I called out the elements.  If we had a majority of hands, we automatically checked the box.  If it was less than half the class, we stopped and discussed and voted again.  If few people raised their hands, we left the box blank.

For the first class, this was the end of the lesson, but for the other two classes we looked at the summary of responses in Google forms to see what folktale elements were the most common in the stories we read.  I sent the form to the 3rd grade teachers and they are  going to share it with their students.  A next step will be for students to read folktales on their own and fill out the form.  Then, we’ll really be able to notice the trends of which folktale elements are most common in our library folktales.chart

One piece I didn’t incorporate into this, which would be really cool, is to insert a question about where the various folktales are from.  Then, I could have embedded a gadget to put a pin on  a world map (like I did in this lesson) to track where our folktales were from.  This might be an addition for next year.