Tip #2: Devote yourself to the book fair:
It is very difficult to try to be all things to all people. Book fair is only one or two weeks a year, so for that time, focus all of your energy on the fair. If your book fair is held in the library, you know how difficult it is to try to hold regular classes and run the fair at the same time. If the fair is your responsibility and is held in the library, ask for permission to cancel classes for the week. Make sure to make book check-out available (i.e. teachers can send students down to borrow books as needed), so that teachers and students don’t feel cut off from the library entirely. It is imperative that you make it clear to teachers that you are still there for them if they need you and that no child or staff member who needs the library will be turned away. You will greatly reduce your stress level if you can eliminate the “structured classes” part of your job for the week. Remember, if you are a true Tibrarian who has been presenting meaningful lessons to her students each week, you can certainly afford to take one or two weeks a year to earn some money to make the library even better.
Cancelling classes gives you the time to create an actual book fair schedule, which will also help to reduce your stress level. In my experience, the best way to present the book fair to students and teachers is to schedule a preview session and a purchase session for each class. Preview sessions should last for about 15-20 minutes and should happen during the first two days of the book fair. During a preview session, you can allow students (and the classroom teacher if s/he chooses to stay) to browse through the fair to see what is available for purchase. If you like to use wish lists at your book fair (I am a fan of this! See page 118 in The Tibrarian Handbook to find out why!), provide students with paper and pencils with which to record the items that they would like to be able to purchase, along with their prices and locations. To keep your stress levels low, make sure to have volunteers on hand to help with the lower grade classes if you are using wish lists (kindergarteners especially will need help writing down their “wishes”).
Preview sessions are also the perfect time for you to pull aside individuals or small groups of students to recommend titles that you think they might enjoy. You can even use book talk videos provided by your fair company or do your own book talks during this time to get students excited about the items that are for sale.
If your book fair lasts for a full school week, you should schedule your Buying Days for Wednesday-Friday. Have each teacher sign up for a 20-30 minute buying time slot on one of those three days. You should also leave some time open at the end of each day so that teachers can send any stragglers who forgot their money on their class’ scheduled buying day. This time at the end of the day will also be prime shopping time for parents, so you will want to have time to spend with them as well. When I first started doing book fairs, I had all of the students in a class come to the library during the class’ Buying Days. I found that the students who didn’t have money with them felt really left out during these sessions, even if I had something planned for them to do (an activity, a basket of books to read, etc.). It’s no fun watching your classmates shop at the book fair when your pockets are empty (even if you know you’ll be coming back later with Mom or Dad to shop). Instead, I asked teachers to send only those students who brought money to spend during each class’ buying time. In this way, you can focus your attention on the students that have money to spend and you don’t have to worry about hurt feelings.
By using an organized schedule like the one I have described, you can truly reduce your stress level during book fair week. You will avoid having huge crowds of students in the library at one time and will be able to anticipate when you will need extra help. Speaking of help, more on volunteers in the next installment!