It's a Book Buffet!
We looked at several options before deciding which incarnation would suit our school best. Since our focus was on community service, we would not keep track of who donated what. We knew that was a bit of a risk, but if you staff the swap with teachers who aren't afraid to speak up, it's not a problem. We were prepared to stop shoppers who left with a few dozen; however, due to the sheer volume of books we received, it wasn't something we needed to address. Given the "browse and take whatever you want" atmosphere, we decided to market this as a Book Buffet.
|We are open for business! Photo: Colleen Donahue|
|Emptying the Bibliosaurus for the last time|
A month before the day of service (see last week's post), The Crazy Reading Minions created the Bibliosaurus. He's big. He's green. He's spotted. He has a theme song. And he eats books.
After collecting trash, books that were older than Mary, and one diaper (yes, it was used), The Crazy Reading Minions hit the school news with a little public service announcement asking for books that middle schoolers might actually WANT to read. When in doubt, be explicit: No bodice rippers and no self help, please and thank you.
We placed want ads in both the town email system and the Friends of Franklin Facebook page. We received donations from students, former students, and community members. We encouraged teachers to purge their classroom collections with the promise to add to them later. We put signs in each and every classroom and bathroom. In a little over one month we collected a little over 400 books.
The Set Up
|Setting up on June 4|
We got so much done.
|We have glitter and we aren't afraid to use it|
We indoctrinated our helpers to make it look as professional as possible. "That sign? It needs to be bigger. And centered. And nicer" (see lack of patience, above). We had staff recommendations and catchy neon starbursts. We had balloons and color-coded genres. We used book stands and displayed our inventory in concentric circles. And when several boys made helmets out of empty boxes and held jousting matches from opposite ends of the cafeteria, we told them to pick up scraps of paper off the floor.
|Proud "staff" reviewer|
While the students worked on physical merchandising and Erin herded 6th graders, Mary called students over one at a time to provide a review for the book of their choice. Students were photographed holding their book, and the photo and review were displayed alongside the books.
|Our WWII section with the student-created label "Sad but True."|
|Stocking up for summer|
|"You mean they're free?"|
We asked local businesses to donate small shopping bags which encouraged kids to pick more than one.
|Before-the-bell crowd Friday morning|
|"I'm the mascot!"|
As sad as we were to see it end, our Book Buffet had served its purpose - re-homing nearly 350 books in less than 24 hours - and gone swimmingly enough for us to consider doing this again. Since our Buffet had to be cleared in time for lunch, we looked at the remaining selection with critical eyes and threw away a handful of rejected books. It took less than twenty minutes to collect balloons, take down posters, fold tablecloths, and pack one box with books we deemed "Keep for next time." Easy peasy. And our event wasn't short any amount of pathos. Students selected books as gifts for siblings. Mary's son - exhibiting great patience at yet another CRL event - found a quiet spot in the back and began reading. Friends sought out multiple copies so they could read together. And when Erin returned to her classroom the next day, she found a book waiting on her desk with a note. A 7th grader had selected one for her.
We've already decided that this will be a semi-annual event at our school. Since the family element was so powerful, we'll likely connect the Book Buffet to an evening event such as parent-teacher conferences or concerts.
Let us know if you decide to pursue this at your school, and be sure to let us know how it goes!