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.

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.

Student Book Budgets 2015-16: Getting Started

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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!

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: 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.

Our Student Book Budget Order from Capstone Has Arrived!

IMG_3014Each year when students participate in the student book budget group, the most exciting day for them is the day that we unpack the boxes when they arrive.  It’s the day that all of their hard work and tough decisions pays off.  After surveying almost the entire school, setting goals, meeting with vendors, creating wish lists, cutting books from the lists to fit the budget, and placing the order, the students finally get to hold books  in their hands.

Today our order from Capstone came.  We love buying books from Capstone each year for many reasons.  One reason is that their books are popular with our students.  We also love their customer service.  Our sales representative, Jim Boon, always comes in and helps students with the book selection process.  We also love how Capstone stretches our budget.  This year’s order from Capstone was $1750, and with Capstone’s current promotion, we earned an additional $525 in books.  When we were unpacking the order today, a student said, “Capstone Rewards sure does help us get a lot of extra books.”  I love that this project really pushes students each year to think about fiscal responsibility and how to stretch a dollar.

Just like every other step of the way, the students are involved in every step of unpacking the books.  We basically form an assembly line.

Some students pull books out of the boxes and inspect them for any damage.  There’s usually not any, but we always check.

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Another student takes these books and highlights each one on the packing slip to make sure they are all accounted for.  Today, I helped with the highlighting process because there were so many books to take through the entire process in only 45 minutes.

These books then go to a student who stamps them with our library stamp.

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From there, a group of students takes pictures of the covers to put into an Animoto to show on our morning broadcast.

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When all pictures are taken, the pictures are uploaded to Animoto by another group of students.

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Then, all of the students work on setting up a display at the front of the library.

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The students all got to check out one of the books before they were really revealed to the rest of the school.

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Then they watched their Animoto and had a little dance party to celebrate new books.

Usually, students start coming in to check out the books before we even get them all setup.  Today was no different.  Some of the DC comics and sports immediately got checked out by 2 eager boys.  I love how one student’s shirt says, “best day ever”.  It sure feels like a great day when we see so many smiling faces for books.

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It was also a little sad to see our project for the year come to an end.  These students have been so dedicated by coming in during their recess time to work.  I smiled when one of them said, “I think I want to grow up to become a library media specialist”.  Other students said, “Please let us do this again next year.”

When I asked them why they like being in the student book budget group, they said things like:

  • who wouldn’t want to buy books for the library
  • we loved making decisions
  • it was fun to spend money for the library
  • people are reading the books that we chose

This process is so empowering for students.  The project has proven again and again that students know how to buy books for other students.  Their books are checked out rapidly and stay among the most popular books in the library.

Thank you Capstone for supporting our project each year.  Your promotions, great selection of high interest books, and book swag gifts, made the students feel like rock stars.

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