2017 Student Book Budgets: Surveys and Vendors

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Our 2017 student book budget group is hard at work making purchasing decisions for the 2016-17 school year.  This year’s group is made up of 4th & 5th graders who applied to be in the group, and they meet during lunch and/or recess time a few times per week to spend a budget on books requested by students.  This money sometimes comes from grants, but this year’s budget is from profits at our fall book fair.

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The money is completely under the control of students, but they must base their decisions on what the rest of the school wants to read.  To determine this, the students work together to create a Google form survey.  This year, they added pictures of all of the new genre sections in our library.  We emailed the form to upper grades, but for lower grades, each book budget student chose a class to go and survey with an iPad.

Once we surveyed almost half the school, students analyzed their results to see what the top categories were.

They also looked at text responses from students to look for commonly requested specific books or series.

After some analysis, they decided to focus on the following categories in their purchases:

Genres

  • Humor
  • Animals
  • Scary
  • Sports
  • Graphic novels
  • Adventure/fantasy
  • Historical fiction (high interest)

I sent these categories to a couple of vendors: Avid Bookshop and Capstone Press.  We’ve worked with both of these vendors for years, and it’s great to continue this project with them.  Jim Boon from Capstone brought in a selection of books and catalogs for students to look at.  He broke the book samples into fiction and nonfiction to help students sort through a variety of books.  If they found a book of interest, he helped them find the book in the catalog by using the index.

We setup a scanning station for students to scan the barcode in the catalog and add the specific titles they wanted into a consideration list.  For this first step, we don’t worry about price.  We simply add every book that looks good to our consideration list.  Later, we’ll look at our budget and start to narrow our decisions.

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Jim also talked to the kids about incentives from Capstone such as Capstone rewards.  These incentives help students stretch their budget even more, so we have some great life-skill discussions about saving money and stretching budgets.

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Before he left, Jim gave every student a Capstone pen and a poster.  There are always special moments in these sessions and one of those was when one of  our students asked if Capstone has a World War II poster.  Jim told her that if she composed an email, we could send it to Amy Cox at Capstone for consideration.

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This student wasted no time and went straight to her room to compose a professional email.

Amy wasted no time in responding, and I can’t wait to see where this conversation takes us.

I love that Capstone truly does listen to their customers.  Even if it doesn’t happen, just taking time to respond to a request in a genuine way means so much to our students.

Our next steps will be to continue looking at Capstone catalogs and take a walking field trip to Avid Bookshop before narrowing our lists for ordering.

Students and Vendors: Meeting with Avid Bookshop

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Our book budget students have continued to meet with vendors to spend our $5,000 James Patterson Partnership grant.  They have gone through a long process to create a survey, survey students, analyze data, set goals, and meet with vendors to create consideration lists.  They met with Jim Boon of Capstone Press and Gret Hechenbleikner of Gumdrop books.  Students have just finished meeting with their final vendor, Avid Bookshop.

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We love working with our local independent bookshop.  They are always willing to come into the school or Skype in to share books with us for projects.  Will Walton, author and bookseller, came in to do book talks with our 3 small groups of book budget students.  Each grade comes in separately for 30 minutes, and each group picks up where the previous group left off.

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We pulled up our goals on the screen so that Will could use them as a talking point with students.  He brought some Advance Reader Copies of books that might meet our goals but also offered his own knowledge of books that matched many of our goals such as graphic novels, scary, and humorous stories.  As Will talked, I was in charge of creating a Google doc of the books so that students could look back at them later.

One of the things that I absolutely loved as Will was talking was how our students were getting hooked on the books he was talking about.  There was an immediate trust of Will, and several students found a book that they personally wanted to read.  He graciously handed out some the ARCs and told students to read them and pass them on to someone else.  He also encouraged students to come in and visit Avid Bookshop.  Several requested that he write down the address of the shop since they had never actually been inside.

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Will also started thinking of certain authors and series and going onto the shelves of our library to find them.  He handed out several of our own books and students checked them out to read.  He really reminded me of the importance of book talks and how I really need to be doing this more than I am!

After Will left, we continued to work on our Avid list.  I email it to Janet Geddis and the Avid team.  They will now check the list to make sure all of the titles are available, and they will send us a quote to help us narrow down our list to what we will actually purchase.  Students have two more meetings before the holidays, so we  hope we can fine tune all 3 of our lists to match our $5,000 budget.

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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2015 Student Book Budgets: The Final Steps

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This year’s student book budget group has been one of the largest groups, but one of the most thorough groups I’ve had.  To recap, our student book budget group is a group of 4th and 5th grade students who develop a reading interest survey, gather data from the whole school, analyze the data, set purchasing goals, meet with vendors, and spend a budget of approximately $2000.  I assist them, but the decisions are completely driven by students.

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This year, we got started a bit late, so we didn’t get all of our books until the very last week of school.  After a lot of debate, the students decided to prepare the books for checkout, enjoy looking at them, and then set them aside for the beginning of the school year next year.  It was a hard decision, but we think it will be so exciting to walk into the library on the first week of school with over 150 new books to choose from.

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On our final day together, some of the students gathered in the library for the big unpacking. We highlighted the books on our packing list, inspected them, stamped them with the library stamp, and started enjoying them.  One student said, “This needs to be your motto. Unpack, stamp, and enjoy.”

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We realized that several of the books were cataloged as fiction but were really graphic novels, so we took time to label all of those books with a graphic novel sticker so that they could be easily found with other graphic novels.

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Once the books were enjoyed by the students, we sorted them into stacks by type of book and took their pictures.  These pictures will be used next year to promote the books at the beginning of the year.  It was fun to see all of the books grouped together to actually see how we distributed the money between our goals.  I think some of us realized we may have been a bit heavy in some areas of our budget, but I don’t think anyone will be disappointed in these great selections.

We thank Capstone and Avid Bookshop who were huge supporters of this project.  We wish the books were checked out right now, but with only one day of school left, we will wait with anticipation for the big checkout day.  It will be a nice way to inform students about the project who might want to participate next year.  My plan is to start much earlier next year!

Unpacking Our Student Book Budget Books: Part 1

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Two parts of our 2015 student book budget arrived!  It’s always exciting when I can email the students and tell them that the books are here.  They’ve been asking me almost daily since we placed the order.

All of our books from Avid Bookshop arrived during our author visit with Sarah Weeks.  The first box of Capstone books arrived while our 5th graders were at Skidaway Island.  I emailed the whole book budget group and told them to come today at noon to unpack books.

Our timeline has been a bit crunched this year.  We are almost out of school days and book check out is already coming to an end for the school year.  I need to do a better job next year of making sure this project doesn’t slip too far into the year.  Usually, we put all of the books out when they arrive and let the students start checking them out.  However, with only 8 days of school remaining, I handed this dilemma to the group.  There was a lot of debate about whether or not to have a special checkout of just book budget books or to wait until the opening of the library in the fall.  After a lot of discussion, the students decided that they wanted to wait and have these books be the first new books available to students in the fall.  It’s always nice to start the new school year with some exciting new books.

As we unpacked the books, we checked them off of our packing slips.  I had already cataloged the Avid books and uploaded the MARC records for Capstone, so the books were ready to go into circulation.  Once they were checked off the list.  Capstone sent us some special labels to put inside our books so that students could indicate books that they chose for the order.

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Each student chose a label, wrote his or her name on the label, and added it to the inside cover.  Students also stamped the books with our library stamp.

The excitement was high and it was so much fun to see the students immediately diving into the books.  They all tucked away around the library to read by themselves or with a partner.  Before they left, the book budget students did get to checkout a few of the books to read over the next few days.  They will return these books to the boxes so that they are ready for the next school year.

We are eagerly awaiting our final order from Capstone which should be arriving in the next few days.

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.

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.