Of course, having written this, this coming week is Book Fair time - upended/limited space, disrupted routines, and new items around but not for general play. Wish me luck!Well, book fair is over and I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about the experience. This isn't new. I wrote a blog post way back in 2013 admitting that book fair time is not my favourite time, and listing all the difficulties associated with turning a learning space into a retail space. The differences between 2013 and 2018 are the new anecdotes and the new options.
|Photo of my 2018 book fair set-up|
Book fair time is now a bit more bittersweet for me because my long-time volunteer, my mother, has had to "retire" from helping. Her memory is not what it once was, and she struggled with calculating the cost of items and managing the crowds of shoppers. She deserves to take a break from helping out - she's almost 82 years old, after all - but it's a very difficult realization to wrestle with, knowing that your parent, whom you considered omni-capable, isn't able to work the same way he/she did like before. (Trust me, I could write an entire book on my thoughts and feelings linked with this particular topic.)
I used to schedule the book fair during Curriculum Night because my mother was only available to help at that time; she was booked to take care of the same event during Parent Teacher Interview night at my former elementary school. I've kept the same time slot and now, the book fair is managed by me, my dear sympathetic friend and fellow teacher Ms. Keberer, and for this year, high school volunteer Alexander. Working at the book fair has been very beneficial to Alexander, who is working on a Specialist High Skills Major in Business. He has managed stock, calculated sales, dealt with customers, optimized layout, and other tasks. He's going for a job interview this week and will mention his work at the book fair as legitimate, current experience. Good luck Alexander!
|Another view of the 2018 book fair|
Despite the potential job benefits the book fair offered for my high school helper, there are negative socio-economic equity issues that relate to the book fair. I did not hear this in person, but one of the adults in my building told me that she overheard a student yelling to herself after discovering that she did not have enough money to purchase something, "I hate being poor!" That bothered me. I also get upset when I see students bring in $50 and $100 bills and then make purchasing decisions that might be questionable or not the best use of those funds. The book fair really highlights the economic inequities front and centre. When Michelle Arbuckle from OLA and I were chatting just before school began, she mentioned a workshop that she attended at the ALA conference that was conducted by young students of colour from economically disadvantaged areas; one of the items that the presenters raised that made school libraries less inviting was the presence of the book fair, with its inflated prices and new merchandise taunting those who could not afford to purchase them. So, it seems like it is not enough for me to point out the polished sales techniques of book fair promotions and remind students that they are neither required nor obligated to buy anything at all from the book fair. Just having it in the building is temptation enough.
|A third view of the 2018 book fair|
I was talking about my book fair woes with some of the other teacher-librarian facilitators at the TDSB TL Facilitator planning day (September 20), like Tracey Donaldson, Kim Davidson, and Francis Ngo, and they offered several different choices (as did Twitter). A teacher-librarian mentioned that they use a local bookstore, who treats it like a "pop-up", so that the set-up and selling all happen on just one day, and that the retailer handles all of it. (They even do this at school concert evenings.) I should have known this, as we invited Ellaminnow Books to our school Family STEAM Night on May 17, 2018.
|A photo of Ellaminnow's display at our STEAM event|
(P.S. Another Story does run book fairs - they tweeted back that you can contact them to arrange.)— Ken MacKinnon EdD (@Coinneach_Mac) September 22, 2018
@adiffbooklist do you have book fairs in schools? We would love to set that up!
Using local stores does help the local economy, but temptation and distraction are two difficulties that the book fair of any sort brings. I wrote this sentence five years ago and it is still true today:
Even the most attentive students are distracted by the books-that-are-not-library-books.In the staff room, I bemoaned the difficulty of running book fair while trying to teach, and Mrs. Commisso, an educator who always pushes my thinking in healthy ways, asked me, "Do you HAVE to have a book fair?". That question stopped me in my tracks. Did I? Is the gain worth the pain? Is my collection dependent on the additions I collect due to the book fair? Well, here are the numbers.
My net sales (excluding taxes) for this year was $2 586.28.
My rewards (because I chose the product only option, which gives me more) was $1 293.14.
I took product from the book fair that equaled $825.00.
I now have a credit to spend on catalogue items of $468.14.
As my annual report (which I was delighted to present to my principal and the division chairs) revealed, I actually spent over $2 000 more than my allocated budget last year, and that's not counting the book fair money I spent on book fair reading materials.
I was going to make a big pro/con list at the end of this post, but I think that this decision is bigger than me. I think I need to consult with all the people that are impacted by the book fair, like administrators, students, teachers, and parents. I suspect my students will wholeheartedly support the continuation of our book fair pattern; they love shopping at school, even if it's just 50 ¢ for a bookmark, eraser, or pencil. (This is one of the few benefits of the knick-knacks; it makes everyone feel like they can afford to shop.) I'd be curious to see what others in my school community think. Should I banish the book fair?