Tuesday, February 21, 2012


At last, an end.

Nine silver crates stacked high with cardboard shipping boxes await pick-up on Wednesday morning by Scholastic's shipping team.

Another successful Scholastic fair for the books with plenty of knowledge gained along the way.

Here's the short list:
1. If you read it, they will come.
2. QR codes, for the time being, were more for self-satisfaction.
3. Want to boost donations in the change drive? Offer to shave your head.

I would say I tried a little harder for this fair. I would tell you that planning, promoting, advertising, and restocking played a bigger part this year. That finding out it was a luau theme, then discovering that our principal's secretary recently hosted a similarly themed party for her church congregation and had tons of decorations to share with us, was a bit serendipitous. That we tried new things and learned new things and that I felt better for it.

The view from here.
Lots of sales.
Zero book check-outs.
But then I'd also feel obligated to tell you that I felt like I sold out to Scholastic this year. That I felt like I was working for a book publisher when I should have been working for my county, my employer. And that I feel a little dirty for it. A little like I cheated my county.

And all for what?

To purchase more books for our school?
To help raise much needed funds for library supplies?
To promote literacy and get good literature into the hands of our students?

I don't buy it.

I hear myself saying it, and yet I don't buy it.

It can all be changed. It can all be made right. Decisions are already in motion to change the operation of our book fair and the role I play in it.

For now, let's look to those actions that bear repeating.

Here's the play-by play.

Free Download of Pete's song
available online.
1. If you read it, they will come. 

There is not a single person under the age of seven at our school who wouldn't join in after overhearing you sing "I love my white shoes". Thanks to Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, our students have discovered a new picture book character to adore.

Though this story may be old news to some (Pete's third story is about to be released), it's certainly one you can love over and over.

As if trying to solidify this point, our youngest students came out in droves to purchase their own copies of Pete the Cat. Pete was the best-selling book at our fair this year, a fact undoubtedly attributed to the love shown him by an enthusiastic teacher librarian who's not shy about singing and having a good time in front of his students and colleagues.

...because it's all good.

Linked to our book fair homepage.
2. QR codes, for the time being, were more for self-satisfaction. 

Have smart phone. Will travel (like a moth to the QR-coded flame).

I'm a recently anointed iPhone carrier and my word if I don't think QR codes are about the coolest thing. They look cool. They can be used in creative ways. They're part of a new vernacular and can help make information more readily accessible.

That said, glittering our book fair with QR codes seemed a no-brainer. Kaywa got the job done.

The two most relevant websites to our book fair, I determined, were our book fair homepage and Scholastic's Teacher Book Wizard page.

Our book fair homepage served as a portal for parents to order popular titles remotely. Can't make it to the school to shop at the fair in person? Why not visit the book fair homepage?! Sold out of the popular title your (and every other parent's) kid is begging for? Why not visit the book fair homepage?! As stated, it seemed like an obvious link to promote.

Linked to Book Wizard.
Scholastic's Teacher Book Wizard is a nice tool as-is, providing reading levels to over 50,000 titles and allowing users to browse books similar in theme, conflict, or characters through BookWise. As a librarian, I pride myself in helping parents select age-appropriate books for their children. Book Wizard makes that process even easier.

Unfortunately, our school is not much of a smartphone-toting crowd yet. While the codes gave me a sense of geek pride, hanging their all proud and prominent throughout the book fair, they were most often ignored by parents. Most kids came in knowing exactly what they wanted. Most parents, if looking for recommendations or reading levels, preferred to speak directly to me.

I can't complain about either of these.

Which would you choose?
3. Want to boost donations in the change drive? Offer to shave your head. 

I'm not one to taunt the masses with outrageous ideas, but if it translates to nearly half a grand raised in spare change, well... things may get interesting.

So, if given the choice of donating to the same cause but with different incentives, would you donate in order to...
- See your school principal become a student for the day (while a handful of students had the chance to be principal for a day)?
- Watch the assistant principal perform a rap about your school that he composed himself?
- Have your media specialist shave his head in front of the whole school?

Choose your own adventure.
We've participated in Scholastic's One for Books program since 2008 and have never had much luck with it. Scholastic provides yellow collection bins for spare change and dollars. The school uses any money collected to buy books. Scholastic, in turn, matches the money collected by donating to one of three charities.

We use the money to buy books for students who couldn't otherwise afford to buy a book of their own. Our teachers and lunch monitors nominate students prior to the book fair. We advertise the change drive and traditionally have raised between sixty and seventy dollars to purchase books for students.

This year the aforementioned incentives drove donating to incredible heights. With a total of $448.38 raised over three weeks, we were able to purchase books for sixty-five very deserving students.

The winning draw? Seeing me lose my hair in front of our entire school population.

We're scheduling a school-wide assembly to take place within the next two weeks or so. In it, along with shaving my head, we will bring high praise to our generous population who, in giving change to achieve a goal, ended up achieving so much more than that.

To do this for them is so worth it.

So next year we'll keep the book promotion. We'll keep the QR codes and keep the crazy incentives to donate change. We'll keep the same worthy cause, but we'll let someone else run the sales. We'll allow the book fair to take over the library, but we won't allow promotional videos and wish lists to deter from Library Media instruction. We'll sacrifice a supplemental budget to the hands of our PTA in order to make clean and clear on ethical practice, but still promote the fair for the great opportunity it is for our students to connect with new literature.

We'll be the change.


  1. o.m.g. I hope there is video of the head shaving. Also, I agree that book fairs can seem like pure advertisement for the publisher. If only there was a book fair that was more like a traveling bookstore including many publishers.

  2. Dana, I couldn't agree more! I think the solution is to stick with Barnes & Noble, who lets who have an in-store book fair where they run it. ...And yes, there will DEFINITELY be a video to come of the head shaving!

  3. I'm so glad the book fair was a success (I'll admit- I put a dollar in the "Mr. Winner Shaves His Head" jar)! SLM students who will soon be vaulting into the field really need to hear this kind of honesty when it comes to what we are really signing up for when it comes to book fairs. Thanks for posting!

  4. Matt, so glad I don't have the hassels of running the Scholastic bookfair, our PTA does it, these days in the science lab. The door can be locked when the bookfair is closed. I get to shop either at the bookfair or online with the profits. We purchase books for reading incentives, for students who are not able to purchase for themselves and the library gets some books too. All I do is run the video a week before and promote with a display of titles and visual that go with the theme. For Spring it's stuffed animals at the Reading Luau, with lots of palm trees.
    Have you seen Scholastic new online reading program Book prints?

  5. Matt,
    I'm sticking with our book fair, and this is why it works at our school:
    1) We have our book fair during the week where students are released early so that the teachers can have conferences with their parents. So, basically every parent comes through the school this week and most stop by the book fair. I get to meet and talk to lots of parents that I don't see otherwise, and I get to talk to them about their kids and what they like to read. I love this!
    2) I am blessed to have a full-time library assistant who keeps the book checkout going, and a couple of die-hard parent volunteers who help me run the book fair. I couldn't make it through the week without them.
    3) I really like the inexpensive Scholastic books and the selection of fiction and non-fiction. Many of our parents will not ever walk into Barnes & Noble. The book fair is our students' only chance to get a book that isn't sold at Wal-Mart.
    I know that everyone's school and library is different. I'm just glad our book fairs continue to be successful enough to fund our author visits!

  6. @cari young, I love all the reasons you support your fair! I support our fair for all those reasons, too, and love how easily we can put books into the hands of our students. We also have our fair during the late evenings of parent teacher conferences, and this is where there becomes a conflict of interest. I get paid by my county to stay late on those evenings. Since I'm on the clock, I've recently felt like it isn't right for me to be working for the county AND working for Scholastic (despite the huge benefits). For me, making the switch to a PTA-run fair means that I can still celebrate literature and promote great reads to our families, but I don't need to question whether or not I'm acting unethically toward my county.

    I'm glad you're in a different situation and that you're able to be at the helm for your fair. The ideas you have to support it are fantastic and I'm sure your sales are through the roof because you take the time to know the literature and know your parents.

    Thanks for sharing!
    - Matthew

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