6 Book Fair Tricks to Amaze and Astound!

Setting the stage …

Imagine, if you will, a tropical island. Miles from the nearest major landmass, your closest layover is a 6-hour plane ride away. It’s a land of rainbows, waterfalls, $8 gallons of milk, 45mph speed limit signs on the freeway, and shipping costs that often are more than the price of the items ordered.

I paint this picture for a bit of context (not necessarily for your pity, just your understanding, lol). I’m really excited to share these book fair tips and tricks, but I’m afraid that once readers see the word “Scholastic” before “Book Fair”, they might not keep reading. You know how Costco carries one million jars of peanut butter, but it’s Skippy and ONLY Skippy? That’s Hawai’i. We don’t have a myriad of local (or even chain) bookstores with whom we might partner, Literati and others don’t operate here, so … my blog post is about the little tricks I’ve worked into my book fairs, and if you happen to see the “S” word anywhere, it’s because that’s what we’ve got to work with. The show must go on! 🙂

Gaze into the future!

Do you or your volunteers put up posters around campus? Make a checklist of locations so you know where to go to take them down after the Fair! This is also handy if you’re entrusting the work to others: the power is yours to make sure your advertisements go where you want them to be seen.

Where’d we put those posters? Student volunteers took their “signage maps” with them as they put up posters around campus, labeling each location. We kept these in the “DO NOT LOSE” folder until the Fair was closed

Seek and find!

If your Fair comes with flyers of advertised titles, chances are your patrons are going to be looking for those specific books. Set aside a few flyers for yourself and your volunteers, and once your Fair is set up, write down the location of every advertised book on those flyers. Numbering book trucks and carts (1L = cart 1, left side) and naming tables (LEGO table) make it easy to help patrons find what they seek.

“Where is Heroes?” Student volunteers labeled extra flyers with shelf locations (“5R” = Shelf #5, on the right) to help patrons find advertised titles

Disappearing act!

When those advertised titles are sold out, I have a precious few days during which I can order more. A little signage where the book used to be will not only help you/volunteers know where to shelve restocks, but also lets patrons know that they can still buy the book if they want (pre-paid titles are set aside and delivered once the restock order arrives). 

Even if you don’t have flyers with the book covers, simple Post-It notes in the spaces where titles once were shelved will help patrons and volunteers know what’s sold out, and which titles – if any – can be ordered

Prest-o, change-o!

This trick is sneaky, but sometimes we gotta bend the rules by which we must play. At our school, elementary students are not allowed to check out manga (#SuperSadSigh), but if those titles are advertised to our older kiddos, who am I to keep Naruto off-limits? Using a book truck to display those titles that maybe aren’t for a certain class means the books can still be accessed, but with a turn of those wheels, the shelf – gasp! – disappears! And it’s like they were never there. #EvilLaugh

Pick a poster, any poster!

You know … there was a Taylor Swift poster at one of my first Book Fairs (2013?), and now she’s on a Golden Book. That sure is something.

Anyway, if posters are a favored feature at your Fair, it can be a struggle to display them. Rather than have a horde of children rifling through a single box, we tape up the posters around the room (one of each design if wall-space allows, using painter’s tape) and include a numbered Post-It on each. The box of posters stays behind the cashier desk so patrons can “order” their poster while in line (“Can I get poster number 3?”). Similar Post-Its are stuck on the matching posters in the box so we can find ‘em, scan ‘em, and roll ‘em up!

Games galore!

For our class visits (our preschool – 6th grade classes schedule times to visit, but anyone on campus can come whenever they want) and after school crowd, having a few simple guessing games – with prizes*! – will add a bit of fun to your store. This year our 6th graders came up with Book Pong: students toss rolled-up bits of flyers into cups prepared with dots, and depending on the dot, that determined their prize. Don’t have time to collect cups and dots and make skee balls out of book fair flyers? My “oh-my-gosh-I-forgot-to-prep-a-game” game is this: Collect a few titles from the Fair, tie them in a stack, and let your patrons guess how many pages are in the pile. It’s math! *If your Fair comes with crap – I mean, treasures – and if your funds allow, use those crystal pens and llama erasers as your prizes. Everything you need for a bit of carnival fun is at your fingertips.

Let the Fair be the game and the prize!

Et voilà!

I would love to know of any tips/tricks/games y’all incorporate into your Book Fairs (“S” word or otherwise). I sure hope these help. Thanks for reading!

Library Signage

I love a good labeling system, don’t you? Signage that works makes me so happy, and when our students “get” that our signs in the library are telling them what they’re looking at … ahhh, it’s so satisfying.

Because our library hosts kindergarten through twelfth-grade students, our collection reflects those age and grade levels. Due to the unique limitations of our historic space, our nonfiction collection is a mix of sources suitable for grades 5 and up. This means the DK Children’s Book of Philosophy could be found on the shelf right next to Cathcart and Klein’s Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar. #SuperFunTimes 

There is something to be said, then, for simplified signage. When students get to the shelf, sure, they can take the book down, flip through the pages, and see if it’s “just right”. But on the way to the shelves, walking amongst the stacks, it would be lovely to have indicators that an 8-year-old and an 18-year-old can understand. Inspired by some brilliant signage I saw in independent bookstores last summer, I embarked on a little journey with my 5th graders through the wonderful world of library classification and signage to help make that dream come true.

Photo of fiction signage from some bookstore ... somewhere.
Fiction signage from … some bookstore … somewhere

What you need to make one-of-a-kind library signs

  • Books
  • Foam board or cardboard (I cut mine to 16”x7”)
  • Old magazines (book catalogs work best!)
  • LOTS of packing tape
  • Post-Its
  • Scratch paper
  • Markers
  • Scissors (don’t run with them!)
  • Fishing twine
  • Command hooks (I used these)
  • Hot glue gun
  • A way to make giant letters (we have a Silhouette Cameo)
  • forty-five 5th graders (or students of your choosing)

I get to see our 5th graders every 2 weeks for about 45 minutes. For the signs to truly reflect student voice, I wanted the kiddos to sift through a bunch of books from a certain area (like the 780s or the 910s), and come up with their own words to answer the question, “What are these books about?” I figured 2 class periods would be enough time for the students to come up with their own verbiage (visit 1) and then create a collage that represented that part of the collection (visit 2). In hindsight, 3 visits might have been ideal, as I ended up taping down most of the collages … but I really wanted the signs done by the time the students came back from winter break. Unrealistic timelines = more work for me!

Not only was this a fun art project that introduced students to titles they might not have known we owned, it reinforced the concept of classification (yes, all the books about the Titanic are on the same shelf because … call #s!) AND it encouraged students to use text features as they searched through the book catalogues for appropriate images. I wish you were here with me so I could walk you along the whole activity, but I’ll do my best to outline the process. 

Visit 1: Once the students (they worked in groups of 3) figured out what topics or themes their assigned books had in common, they came up with their own words/terms, which they wrote on Post-Its, and then collaborated to combine their ideas and reach a final word or phrase, which they wrote on a giant scratch sheet of paper. Admittedly, some piles of books were easier to define than others, but it was so gratifying to see their minds work to put concepts into words! 

Can you guess the Dewey section based on the students’ Post-Its? 🙂

Visit 2: Then they scoured old magazines to find images that illustrated their ideas. Book catalogs (think ABDO, Lerner, Capstone) proved to be especially useful because once a group realized they had books pertaining to, say, U.S. History, they could use the text features (table of contents, headings) to browse relevant images in the “Social Studies” section of that catalog! We turned those giant scratch sheets of paper from our first visit into envelopes in which they kept all their collage pictures, as well as their initial Post-It ideas. 

Tables of contents, titles, and headings were actually put to use as the kiddos searched for images!

So I had their collages and I had their words. All I had to do was print out their wording on the adhesive paper, and … everything else. 😆 As I type this, I realize that I could have had the students stick the words to their collage signs themselves … but again, I really wanted to surprise them when they came back from break! I used hot glue and fishing twine to make loops on the backs of the signs (where I also taped their initial Post-It ideas for reference and attribution), and then stuck the Command hooks above the appropriate shelves. The 5th graders get to see their work every time they browse the stacks – and not just them, but every student who peruses nonfiction can see the work of their peers!

I’d love to know how you’ve used student work in your library space. And if you have any ideas for crazy/crafty future projects, please share!