I wrapped up a book fair last week. I enjoy watching students browse during the book fair, browsing with them, talking and enjoying the whole experience. I have come to embrace book fairs, but it wasn't always this way. When I was a new librarian, I did not like the idea of book fairs. Not in my library. I thought, What an un-librarian like thing to do. Sell things to students, use valuable school time, pull students away from their reading and research. Not only that, but the pesky book fair was pulling me away from my important work. I decided it was a necessary evil, however, because I needed some new library books and some books for book clubs. When I conducted my first book fairs, I did not enjoy them. I felt stressed about theft and handling money, and I hated the non-book "stuff" that came with the books.
I lamented about having book fairs in one of my journal assignment entries during library school. Having a book fair was horrible, and I was embarrassed about having one. My professor, Dr. Wallace, responded to my rant by saying, "NEVER feel bad about having a book fair!" I was shocked. I thought, Really? We have book fairs to support our library programs. "Why are you having a book fair in the first place?" she asked. Remembering this, I now realize why I was having such a hard time with book fairs. We have book fairs to raise money for our library program. What I know now, as I reflect on that moment, is that, at the time, I did not believe that my library program was worthy or important enough to merit a week-long fundraiser. That was before I realized that I had super powers, a cape and all. I'm so different now.
After last week's book fair I can easily list a few reasons why I believe book fairs are great:
- Excitement: Do you remember the excitement of the book fair coming when you were in school? I do! and I LOVED it. Students still love the book fair. It is a part of the school year to which they look forward. It's festive and fun, similar to a pep rally, but for the library. Even the teachers look forward to it.
- Learning about Money: What better place to learn to handle money than at school where your teachers are there to help you? Students will ask and find answers to questions such as: How much tax is on a dollar? How much will these two items cost? Do I have enough money to pay for these two items? Is it okay to hand the cashier a wadded-up dollar bill? Should I count my money first before I hand it to the cashier? I use the book fair to teach these simple lessons to students and insist that they be careful with their money.
- Consumer Lessons: The fair is a great place for students to practice being consumers and ask important questions such as: Is this item worth the price they are seeking? What is the value of the item to me? Is this a fair price? If I want two items but only have enough for one, which one should I get? Which is the best value or choice for me?
- Browsing: I enjoy going to Barnes & Noble and browsing. Hours fly by like minutes as I get lost in books and magazines. I encourage my students to have the same experience and try to give them enough time to pick up the books, open them, browse, sit down and look through a book or two. I encourage students to make notes of the books they believe they might like to read or that they would like the library to purchase. It was touching to see a group of "tough" 8th grade boys sitting down at the book fair tables engrossed in books, sharing with each other and reading together. I remember laughing hysterically with students as we looked at the Klutz book, Rule The World: 119 Shortcuts to Total World Domination at last year's book fair. I always tell my students, "If you see a book at the fair that you like, we already may have a copy in the library." Some students go right to the shelves and check out a book they saw at the book fair. After the fair is over, I am hounded relentlessly until I get all the books that I've pulled from the fair processed and put on the shelves.
- Giveaways: I give away at least $100 worth of merchandise to students and teachers every fair. It feels great!
- Profit: I have earned at least $300 worth of books from every book fair I have hosted.When the fair goes really well I get cash profit. A few of he items we have purchased with my book fair profit are: Playaway batteries, new audio books, book club materials, multiple copies of new popular new releases, board games, field trips, family game night, a Wii console, Wii games, family literacy night, seasonal decorations, summer and winter reading programs and rewards, professional development and more.