I wrote this post way back in fall of 2013, but since there has been a lot of chatter on the listserv about pop-up libraries as a way to promote new books, I thought I would revisit it. (As well, I should sheepishly admit I am overdue on a blog post and am too mired in some quotidian minutiae to give a new post the attention it deserves, so I am recycling in earnest.) Also, this time of year tends to lend itself to retrospectives, clip shows, and Best-Ofs, so it seems timely. I hope. So, see below for my first Pop-Up Library adventure, and feel free to get in touch about the details of how I made it happen. I continue this program today, at a rate of about one per month.
I have been installed here for six years and I recently joked that I had my first “normal” year in 2012: my first year was my first year and I was still finishing my last two credits of library school, my second year I was expecting, my third year I had a new baby, my fourth year we renovated, and finally in my fifth year the dust had settled and things were basically predictable. But suddenly what was to be my second “normal” year in a row took a detour: the administration assigned me to be a sixth grade advisor instead of working with my usual crew of juniors or seniors.
There is much greater interaction between advisor and advisees in the middle school, so I was suddenly able to witness the middle school program at very close range. It reinforced what I had long believed to be true: the middle schoolers are my biggest potential consumers of fiction or pleasure reading, but they have the least access to it.
In the lower school division, the students have regular, devoted library time each week. In the high school, students can come in before school, at lunch, during study hall or any free time to peruse the collection and check out materials. In the middle school there is no dedicated library time (yet! That’s another post, I hope) but they are not free to wander into the library by themselves. As well, many of them have confided to me they feel gingerly about entering a library full of “big kids.” What to do? All those glorious young adult titles, desperate to find readers, and an equal number of sad readers bereft of great books. And don’t even get me started on how I feel about the potential future impact on public libraries – isn’t part of our mission to build regular library users into college and beyond?
And thus, the Pop-Up Library. If the middle school can’t come to the library, the library can come to them, I thought. I cannot claim sole credit for this particular stroke of genius – it was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend who is a local college librarian.
So the library popped up in the cafeteria later that very week: I gathered a selection of very hot current books like the Divergent series, James Patterson’s Maximum Ride books, the Theodore Boone novels, a brand-new copy of House of Hades, and an armful of titles for Halloween. I parked these on a book truck, added a laptop and barcode scanner and printed up some colorful signs. I made sure to announce the event at the middle school morning assembly, emailed the faculty to encourage them to remind the kids, and notified the communications department of the photo op for the newsletter.
I set myself up in a corner of the dining commons, arranged the books attractively and before I could even sit down, I had customers – happy, smiling, ready-to-read customers. I circulated more books that afternoon than I had in the entire previous week and there was a ripple effect that lasted for several days, since some students asked about this or that book I had not brought, but could check out and deliver at lunch the next day or to a classroom.
It was so successful I repeated it earlier this month with new titles plus Thanksgiving-related books like Witch of Blackbird Pond, some Ann Rinaldi titles and books about Native American lore and history. The kids tell me they are eager to have it every three weeks or so. To prepare, I have invested in a tabletop poster holder, some book-printed fabric for a tablecloth, sign holders and colorful paper to help merchandise the books enticingly.
Feel free to get in touch with specific questions if you’d like to try launching your own Pop-Up Library – it’s easy, fun, and effective.
That’s fabulous. What a great feeling to know that you can connect the kids who are hungry to read with the books since they can’t get them any other way. You should give yourself a gold star!
This is AWESOME! It works as a concept for retailers and now you’ve proven it’ll work for libraries. Your pop-up library concept fascinated me so much that I did some quick searching and found came across these other efforts. You’re starting a movement! http://www.ilovelibraries.org/6-delightful-pop-libraries and
What a great idea! Maxine Lucas used to go to some of the English classes and do book talks. I am wondering if we could do this and just bring the books over to our terrace area. It seems easy to set up and just get started. During our club fair, the book club set up a table and we have copies of our book club pick and they all checked out. I should have made the connection. Nice work!
I LOVE this idea! Awesome post…
So lovely to get so many supportive comments! I must insist on giving Sarah Carter of Ringling College of Art and Design credit for inspiring me. For those of you who use Follett Destiny but may not have a spare barcode scanner, I have two suggestions:
1) Of course you can simply write down the patron name and barcode number of the item and circulate back at the desk; or,
2) If you have a smartphone with a camera, there is a Follett Destiny app that will allow you to circulate by scanning the barcode with the camera. I do it this way sometimes just to amuse the kids!
Alyssa, thanks tons for this inspiring idea. I’m definitely going to adapt to and use it knowing that you had such success. Also, thank you for sharing the Follett iPhone app. I’m sure my Follett rep has mentioned it, but I obviously wasn’t paying attention. Much appreciated all around. Have a great weekend!
OMG! What a great idea! I’m going to do this too. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the great post!
What an excellent idea! Very creative solution to a vexing problem. 😎