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Mike Graf – the author

  • Posted on November 30, 2008 at 3:06 PM

Wanting to find out more about Mike Graf and how he integrated informational material Photo: Mike Grafinto his realistic fictional series Adventures with the Parkers, I contacted Mike by phone. I learned that you could invite Mike Graf to your school in late May and early June this year. Mike will be touring the National Parks as part of his new book tour and is setting his schedule now.  Mike’s website is 

Mike currently has over 70 published titles that are mostly written for children, and he does have a few teacher books and science kits. One of my favorites is his History Pockets: Explorers of North America. He has worked with fifteen publishers. Mike was an elementary teacher of grades 4 & 5 and the Gifted And Talented Enrichment (GATE) program for ten years. He has also taught part time for Chico State University (child development, children’s literature, and the school-age child), and been a part time/on-again, off-again TV weatherman for six stations. 

Mike visited over 50 schools last year. His rates are available on his website and they are actually very reasonable. Even I can afford to ask Mike to come. I certainly will do so with his new book coming out set in the Great Smoky National Park. Because Mike does a writing workshop on realistic fiction, I would have asked him anyway to help improve my students’ writing. Mike is also available to speak at large conferences so keep him in mind when you are organizing your state conference.

Okay, readers, you may be like me. When I was chatting with Mike on the phone, I kept thinking to myself "TV weatherman?" So I asked him how he became a weather expert. Mike explained that his first book was The Weather Report – a teacher’s guide to teaching weather. Mike had been a mentor teacher and a spotter station for his local weather station with his students calling in results daily. Through this he got to know the local meteorologists. One day he was touring the local station with a GATE class. After his students tried acting in front of the green wall, Mike did an impromptu mock weather report and was "picked up" to become a part-time weatherman. I learned the weatherchannel in Atlanta picked up his book, so he must have some expertise with weather. 

However, weather is not Mike’s only interest as an author. He has written nonfiction and realistic fiction books on animal encounters, whale rescues, dinosaur digs, caving, and ghost towns. He has written many nonfiction titles about national parks. His realistic fiction title Tail of the Scorpion was chosen as a finalist for the One Book program in Arizona. In his Adventures with the Parkers series you can learn about geology, history, and animals so Mike integrates all subjects well while telling an interesting tale. 

I learned that Mike is a great storyteller, also. I wish I could share all of my notes with you, but some of my notes contain secrets for the future. Hee hee hee! I can share with you some of the trivia I learned: 

Did you know there are no fireflies west of the Rocky Mountains? I was horror-struck at this thought. All those children in CA, WA, and OR never chasing and dancing with fireflies or lightning bugs on a late June-early July evening. Did you know the Smokies are the Salamander Capital of the world? Did you know girls have more issues with ticks than guys? 

Alright, enough of the trivia and on to the facts needed.  In 2006-2007 Mike Graf had books set in these parks released:

Zion and Bryce
Grand Canyon

In February 2009 these two will be released:


Great Smoky

What does Mike have in store after that? The Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park, the Arches Canyon Lands, Acadia, and many more. In 2016 the National Park Service will celebrate its centennial. I wonder just how many parks Mike will have visited and written about by then! I had to ask Mike if the Everglades was on his list and he assured me that he wants to write it. Publishers, let Mike write that book. Every year during the first week, I need something to extend Hoot and other titles set in the everglades for my sixth graders. One of the Parker Adventures would be a good pairing.

Mike Graf’s series Adventures with the Parkers has a 100% endorsement by the National Park Service and has been determined to be factually correct. As part of the research process Mike spends a minimum of two weeks in each park with his tape recorder recording details of the trip and the trail. For one of his recent titles, he recorded 20 hours of research to then be replayed and recorded.

He explained to me his process includes :



Editing a gazillion times.

Each title takes approximately one year to write and develop. Usually his wife takes half the pictures, but this past summer, she was busily preparing for their new baby girl. Can you imagine why an 8-9 month pregnant woman would not want to be exploring the depths of our national parks? Now that Maggie has come along, I’m sure Mike’s adventures will expand. I did ask Mike about the illustrations for this series. The publisher arranges for the illustrator and Mike has never met her. Ann W. Douden designed this series. I usually don’t seek out the designer, so that says something about how much I like the way this book is put together.

The Next Century for Parks encourages you to get involved now in preparing for the Centennial of the National Park Service.

Mike Graf & National Parks

  • Posted on November 30, 2008 at 12:30 PM

You might have overlooked Mike Graf’s Adventures with the Parkers series  initially so I wanted to make sure Book Cover: Eye of the Grizzlyyou took the time to study them then to order more and put them in students’ hands. Remember growing up and reading about exotic places? Most of us decided to either go visit them as adults or live vicariously through more books. With so much attention to videogames and fantasy worlds in the past decade, our students have not been exposed to the exciting adventure of touring our national parks. 
Book Cover: Tail of the Scorpion
Mike Graf is the author of this series set in various National Parks. I read Eye of the Grizzly: YELLOWSTONE, and Tail of the Scorpion: GRAND CANYON published by Fulcrum Publishing. Both of these titles were excellent and very appropriate for grades 4-6. My 7th graders are interested in these and have insisted on reading over my shoulder every time I pick up these books. Information was presented in such an interesting way, that I felt compelled to continue reading to learn more about the parks.

The full-color illustrations intermingled with black and white photographs, drawings, factoids, and maps draw students into the books. These 94-page books are not picture books but utilize varying fonts and sidebars to create a nonfiction-type experience for a fictional chapter book. They balance informational material with a family’s fictional account of a visit to each of the parks. 

The adventures encountered occur through natural activities grounded in the author’s research and personal experiences. Each fictional title includes sample diary pages from the two children, lists of the top things to do in each park, and sidebars of factual information.  The format of these titles is unique, but the two copies I examined were in 7×9" paperbacks. I don’t want you to miss these titles due to their binding. They would make excellent selections for state student reader’s choice award lists particularly if your state contains or borders one of these parks. 

Two additional titles in this series that are already available include:
Danger in the Narrows (Bryce and Zion parks)Book Cover: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Harrowing Ascent of Half-Dome (Yosemite park). 

I can’t wait until this spring when Mike Graf’s newest Parkers adventures in the Great Smoky National Park and in Olympic National Park are published. In the meantime, I can review Mike Graf’s National Park series written for Capstone Press and his Great Smoky Mountains title written in 2003 intended for a much younger audience.

While I was reading Mike Graf’s series, I was also reading Enslow’s series America’s National Parks which is part of their My Report Links division. I love this series. It is a perfect stepping stone after reading Mike Graf’s series. While I was reading Eye of the Grizzly, I couldn’t get enough information about Yellowstone National Park so I excitedly opened the Enslow My Report Links: Yellowstone National Park. Written for grades six and up, this was the perfect next step. 

I found both titles complementary. A good school library collection should include both sets. We need to be stirring our students sense of adventure, desire to connect with nature, and yearning to be actively involved in the envir. 

We don’t have to set juvenile crime mysteries  in parks like the National Geographic series or the adult books by Nevada Barr to make parks interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I love both of those series for their mystery aspects, but they didn’t make me want to get off my sofa and travel. I am very content to wait for the next Anna Pigeon in the series to come out so I can lazily experience life with no insect bites or poison ivy. Mike Graf’s books make me want to immediately book a trip to the park.

We do need to help expose our students to the wonders of nature. Since we are a society of obese people, perhaps we need more library materials on going outside. Have you checked out the resources available from the National Environmental Education Foundation? Perhaps the developers of Wii games would like to meet up with author Mike Graf to develop a new type of physical interaction in a virtual world?

My family

  • Posted on November 29, 2008 at 8:53 AM

Let me take a moment to share about my parents. They may not have anything materially (healthcare, income, savings, food) but they have so much to give of themselves.  Recently my mother was one of the volunteers who helped raise $50,000 for the Siouxland Sleep-Out in Sioux City, Iowa. Here’s part of her story in the article:

One memorable story was that of Sue Ritts of Washta, Iowa, who was determined to experience homelessness despite no prior experience. She brought a very small thin-walled box for shelter and became unbearably cold. Two residents of Henry Muller Hall, with many years of actual homeless experience, recognized her problem and set her up in the third base dugout with an abandoned refrigerator box and extra covers they had brought.

Mom insisted I understand that they didn’t get the article totally accurage – she was bearing the cold even though it was terrible with 50 mph winds and her friends didn’t give her extra covers. The Henry Muller Hall residents were wonderful and took good care of her because they INSISTED she allow them to help. My mom didn’t like the article because she thought it made her sound too wimpy. Okay, world, my mom is no wimp and anyone can read the entire article to see what bitter temps were occurring. This was the weekend when South Dakota had that nasty snowfall, also. 

When my mother informed us she was going to sleep outside in a cardboard box to help raise awareness of homelessness and mental health issues, my family was hysterical. We were convinced she was going to freeze to death. My mother is not healthy despite all her protests. Stubborn & determined? Yes! Healthy? No! She refused to listen to us because she had sponsors who had donated money and she was determined to tough it out.

Several years ago she was in a car accident that broke vertebrate in her neck. She had surgery to replace some vertebrate nearly 2 years later when they found the reason behind her headaches, but it wasn’t totally successful and she suffers every single day from debilitating migraines. The insurance company for the "other guy" did not cover all the surgery so she stopped receiving treatment and determined to suffer through. My parents are part of America that does not receive health coverage, but they are tough hard-working people who keep going.

My mother’s boss suddenly closed her bookstore 2 years ago leaving my mom without a job. My mother had cashed in all her retirement money to pay medical debts. When my father sold his gas station in Washta and retired, instead of using all the money to build his garage in the yard so he could continue to work, they paid off more medical and credit card bills. My father continues to pursue his dream of building the garage bit by bit. 

Mom and dad continue to take care of the local church as the janitors. My mom works part-time in a gas station in the next community, but my father must drive her to work daily because she cannot raise her arms high enough long enough for these trips. My mom is also treasurer for the UMW’s northwest territory and is taking classes on lay ministry.

My father isn’t the healthiest person in the world either, but he continues to work and give. Recently mom and dad took my nephew Andrew and niece Miranda along with members of their church to serve 1200 people Thanksgiving dinner at the Sioux City, IA, Goodwill. KTIV NewsChannel 4 has some video footage. My dad and Andrew show up serving right away in the clip.  If my brother Dan and I lived closer, I’m sure we’d be involved in all the charity activities, also.

Mom and my brother Randy worked on Thanksgiving Day, so my parents will host a big family get together Sunday for Randy’s family, my cousins Denise, Dawn, and Deena, and their children/grandchildren. I just talked to mom before she heads off to work. She was logging on to facebook to see how many people will brave the predicted snow storm tomorrow to gather and eat. She mentioned not wanting to have to look at 15 pounds of peeled potatoes if snow strikes and no one makes it through.  

Mom, if everyone was as tough as you and dad, the world would be a better place. I wish I had a magic wand and could grant you both health care, plenty of food, and an easier life. 

Readers, if you’d like to contact my folks, my mom is on facebook or you can email Sue Ritts. You’ll notice I wrote on her facebook wall and suggested she get involved in organizing an Angel Food program for northwestern Iowa in her spare time. I’m sure she has an extra five minutes one day a month to add to her plate. By the way, Dad, did you know she has volunteered you both to help with the Goodwill shoe ministry this month? 

The world needs more people like Sue and Alyn Ritts. Love you!

What if the administrator isn't supportive

  • Posted on November 29, 2008 at 7:17 AM

Maria Peet wrote: I was reading your blog entry on how glorious it is to be a school librarian (Oct. 24th), and it brought such mixed feelings that I thought I would write you – what do you do when the circumstances are not how you describe: “We have individual relationships with our students, staff, administrators, and parents. We have professional leadership roles.” 

I have positive relationships with kids, staff, and parents, but how do you change (or can you?) a situation where administration has a different, much more limited, view of your role than you do? I’m sure that I am not alone in being in a situation where there is minimal support for an expansion of the teacher-librarian from “the buying books, cataloging books, supervising study halls, checking out books” role to a role where teaching time is dedicated to information literacy, media literacy, 21st century skills, etc. It doesn’t make sense to me, but there it is.

Diane’s response: I’ve had a variety of support in the past. Some principals were wonderful. Some never stepped in the door of the library and simply told me what my budget was (or wasn’t) that year.

One administrator made me cry weekly and dread Monday morning because I might make a false step. If I caused her to feel threatened, she would make my life miserable. I attempted to meet with her, provided her with new insights & research, shared state standards and district guidelines, but no matter what I did her response was "I’m the principal and I’m in charge of everything here." That principal limited my role and wouldn’t even allow me to email teachers directly. 

Maria: I know that you recently went from one school to another – did you go into that position knowing that you would have full support for your programs?

Diane:  Last year

Maria: Any thoughts or ideas would be welcome.

Also – how does one get on a committee (something that would fit with a 7-12 school library)? Thank you so much!!!!!!

Diane: Now that’s a question I like to respond to! Every state association has committees to begin involvement. Many of those state associations are listed as affiliates for AASL. The American Association of School Librarians has a form that must be complete each year by anyone interesting  

Jenny Schwartzberg's Book Related Things to do this weekend

  • Posted on November 25, 2008 at 6:11 AM

Jenny Schwartzberg from The Newberry Library wrote this great post on Child Lit and graciously agreed to share with all of you:

I wanted to ask you all to think about taking your Thanksgiving Weekend family and friends who are visiting your local town or city to children’s book related things.  We talk about the importance of children’s books, but how often do we take children and families to plays based on children’s books or exhibits about children’s books?  They are a great way to get children to enjoy these particular books and to share your own love of children’s books.  Check your local newspaper and online sources for what’s open this coming weekend and go share your passion with family and friends!

Here’s a brief list of what’s going on in the Chicago area that are children’s books related (there are lots of other children’s events too…) during this holiday weekend.  I omitted the ones that are not based on specific children’s books or fairy tales and also the ones that start after this weekend:



I’m sure others on the list will point out events based on children’s books in the Chicago area that I missed.  It would be fun to hear what’s happening around the country during the weekend that is children’s books based.

Jenny, this looks like such a great list. I don’t even know what’s going on in Nashville this weekend so this convicted me to do a better job keeping aware. This fall I went with middle school students to the Nashville Children’s Theatre production of Frankenstein and loved it. My students were amazed and would never have attended a live production if not for a school trip.

On an un-book related event, I am watching the countdown to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago. I loved the season while living in Germany. Our entire family would wander the stalls, with our freezing hands gripped around warm gluhwein, hot sausages, and potato pancakes. We’d visit live Nativity scenes, see children’s shows, and shop for small Christmas ornaments to give each other as gifts. Students didn’t have elaborate gift exchanges. Instead families would shop for unique ornaments to use as gifts. It was a wonderful family time and felt like we were in a storybook. I attended the markets in Ansbach, Rothenburg, and Nuremburg, Germany. I have yet to attend the one in Chicago. Have any of you ventured out for this event?

I NEED good to trample evil

  • Posted on November 23, 2008 at 1:45 PM

While I am not in total control of what happens TO me, I can control how I respond. So… today I am reading and re-reading monster books. Vampires, werewolves, witches, pixies, you name it. Good is going to triumph and evil is going to get what it deserves. 

One of those titles was an Advanced Reading copy of NEED by Carrie Jones. (Look at the cool countdown widget I found created by Devyn Burton) I would have reviewed it sooner, but teachers kept grabbing it from me to read. Since these were mainly English teachers, they returned the copy to me marked with any errors, notes on paragraph mistakes in the wrong section, etc. When I asked them to overlook that, they raved about the content and told me they couldn’t put Need down, but had to read it in one setting. 

I was surprised that Need was chosen for the title. I might have veered towards some type of phobia since they appear throughout. Zara uses her knowledge and recitation of phobias to hide from dealing with the emotional grief she faces. To match my current state, there was some monster butt-kicking, but most of that action was left to our imagination. The romance is suspenceful and sweet and there is some attention paid to Amnesty International and saving the world.

Need includes teenagers researching first in the computer lab, second at the public library, then third through notes and letters (primary sources) left from important family members. Zara, Nick, Issie and Devyn learn a little about the Shining Ones – pixie, fairy, were, elf and one other that they can’t remember. Since only two appear in Need to wreck havock on a small town in Maine, I assume there will be more books by Carrie Jones. 

Need was a quick read for me between refills of my coffee. Some of the story was predictable. I’m not bothered by books that involve adults and multi-generations coming together to try to solve problems. In the end, the teenager Zara does come up with the pretty obvious solution to containing the monsters. Still, it was a fun read, and I can’t wait for more from Carrie Jones. I like the way supporting characters were developed in Issie and Devyn’s happy romance, but the villians just appeared, were vanquished, then forgotten. Need has the subplots of grief and fear of facing who we are that will help add to our "coming of age" bibliographies. 

I’m definitely adding Need to my shelves due to the romance, suspense, and monster element. This goes on the list for those who loved Twilight and "Need" more. I have decided that Carrie Jones NEEDS to continue to write about these characters and add more since I already miss them after finishing Need. I have to go in to school tomorrow (during my fall break) to hand this to a teacher who needs to read it over the break.

Want to learn more?

Karin’s Book Nook has a review that actually tells you what the book is about (unlike my post) 

I learned that the rights have been picked up to turn Need into an audio book. I’d suggest every runner/jogger needs this to listen to while they do cross-country, run at night, or run through the woods (remember how diabolical I am!)

The Next Dead Thing article on Publisher’s Weekly has my favorite quote by Melanie Cecka: “People think of pixies as cute and sparkly,” Cecka said, “but not so in Jones’s book. She’s made them vicious, soul-sucking and diabolical—she throws the pixie concept on its ear.

Did you know that Need is on the Winter Kids’ Indie Next List? Click on Teen Readers to see what else is there. Why haven’t I read all of those titles? Come on publishers! You are letting me down!

Author Carrie Jones’ livejournal

When the going gets TOUGH

  • Posted on November 22, 2008 at 5:26 PM

When the going gets TOUGH, the tough put on lip balm.  That’s because sometimes you just have to press your lips together and get through those tough times. Let’s look at this weekend:

Friday morning we learn of the Nashville mayor’s confusing proposal to merge public and school libraries – without working with the school librarians on this and faultily assuming we do the same activities/have the same collections. This happens while 400 Tennessee school librarians are meeting at the Tennessee Association of School Librarians annual conference to Be A Guiding Light @ your library and where advocacy gurus Debra Kay Logan and Sara Kelly Johns are speaking.

Friday night I learn my house has been robbed and my son’s electronics (plus some hotdogs and pizza) were stolen. I learn how to conduct an investigation, how to interview neighbors, and how to speed clean anything personal that "some unknown person" may have touched. After laundry and dish washing, it’s 3 a.m. & I need to be up by 5 to prepare for the next day of TASL.

Saturday afternoon I learn my German Shepherd has torn his ACL, has advanced stage arthritis in his hips, and is losing feeling in his tail causing "accidents" to fall everywhere. This means the end is approaching too rapidly and my sons aren’t dealing well with it. Saturday becomes researching options and preparing for proposals to help 4 teenage boys deal with the upcoming loss of their beloved Marshall T-Rex. 

While I may experience optical leaking, my Mary Kay lip-balmed-lips will not quiver, and I will keep going. 

I need your support. 

You cannot help me retrieve my #3 son’s only possession – an Xbox 360 he purchased with his salary from working at Taco Bell or my #2 son’s Wii system that he left with me for safe keeping while he is doing desert training in California in preparation for Afghanistan in March. You cannot magically cure my beloved Marshall. 

You CAN help us educate the officials in Nashville, Tennessee, on the importance of school libraries and the differences between public and school libraries’ missions, collections, and activities. Educate not irritate. There must be dialogues and opportunities to educate and advocate for both types of libraries. That’s what makes us a great city with a great library. Who thought that slogan meant just the public library?

Here are some places to comment: 

  • SLJ’s article Nashville School, Public Library Merger Generates Confusion
  • Nashville’s Public Libraries to run School’s Libraries article in the Tennessean
  • Library Merger Plan Stuns Officials article in the Tennessean
  • Read the letter from Mayor Dean to acting director Chris Henson. Note that Dr. Susan Whitworth was not cc’d on this matter. As the coordinator of library services in Metro Schools, shouldn’t Dr. Whitworth have received this information before the press and at least been given the same opportunities as the director of the public library?
  • Check out the School board’s letter to Mayor Dean in pdf format. (It’s important to read the real sources, but here’s my question: Where’s the plan?)
  • Nashville City Paper’s article City, School library consolidation generates confusion
  • NewsChannel 5’s report on the possible merger
  • A view in the UT Scholarly Communication Issues that focuses upon territories. I think Bryn is missing the big picture. School libraries DO currently collaborate with public libraries. I teach my students how to access public libraries. I visit public libraries during the summer to stimulate reading and maintain academic skills. Our school libraries use the resources from the public libraries. We use databases like TEL and teach students the importance of having a public library card so they can locate e-books.  We encourage our students to use the public library resources including the internet WITH their families after school since most parents cannot get to schools during the day and even early evening.

Public libraries are wonderful places with resources for recreational reading, but do they have the staff expertise to provide curricular support?  In a typical 7.5 hour school day, I may spend 90 minutes planning with teachers for instruction. My degree in education enhances my ability to match resources with teaching strategies. This is far more than collection development. This is instruction. Perhaps that’s why in 1989 when I earned my library degree school librarians had to have more credit hours for their master’s degree and certification than general librarians. There is a difference. School and public libraries are meant to collaborate not dominate each other.

There is an article by NJASL on SCHOOL/PUBLIC LIBRARY JOINT USE FACILITY STANDARDS. which explores the idea of joint partnerships in great detail. Do you agree with the content? Is there anything missing?

As for me, my family needs my support tonight as we cope with tough times. I appreciate your support and I’m off to reapply the lip balm.

Valuing Processing with $0 budget

  • Posted on November 22, 2008 at 5:49 AM

Small town librarian left a comment for me in the post on Valuing My Time. I truly respect every librarian who has no budget and want to stand on my soap box to preach throughout the halls of administration because I know what you are talking about. I have taught in districts that gave me $500. My response wouldn’t fit in the 7,000 character limit for comments so I’m opening the discussion up to others. I need each of you to comment on your budget situation so our community of readers has data. How much do you receive for books and media? Does it meet your needs?

I understand what you are talking about with budgets. I get horror stories from so many librarians about having no budget. It is important that you have a place to tell others about this. I would encourage all librarians to start leaving comments about their funding situations so we have data to present nationally. It’s not enough to talk in global terms, I need specifics and you need to share them. 

My friend Allison wraps gifts at her local bookstore to earn money to buy books or holds a book fair to get a small profit. Her district gives her nothing. How can she be expected to meet the academic or recreational needs of her students? 

When we do the math, after 20 % of my district’s funds were taken out for pooled databases, we received $6 per student (not $15 like some). If you have 900 students like I do, you get about $5,000 to cover all print and media needs. If you only have 300 students, you receive $1800. Anyone who is doing the math knows, you cannot build a successful collection with $1800. Reference materials alone could take that amount. Additionally, I can’t meet my circulation demands with $5,000 or buy the books teachers are asking for to help them instruct students. 

Every school no matter their size should have a base amount of funding to begin, then additional funds should be allocated based upon the population and their circulation. Schools that circulate more (sometimes due to just having more students) need more, but you have got to provide a base amount so all school libraries have the opportunity to increase circulation. Funding formulas need to take this into account. 

Bake sales and wrapping paper shouldn’t fund our collections. If the districts want us to buy materials to support the collection, they need to provide the funds. If I’m using my own time after school to generate funds for my district, I’m going to fund my circulation and recreational needs, also. As I stated in my radical comments: Participation Powers Purchases.

But back to Small Town Librarian’s point, your time is a budgetable item also. I spent many years doing my own processing, even though my district encouraged our purchasing processing. It took me looking at how quickly a corporate vendor could do the materials to realize that even if I only bought 25 books, the time I spent processing would provide better value used for face to face instruction. I’m talking about value to the students – the entire reason we are there. 

Most vendors will work hard with you on pricing. You can negotiate far more. What would processing really cost you? $0.35, $1.00, $2.30 per book? Have you told the vendor that you’d order books from them, but you cannot afford to pay $2.30 for processing and may have to go to a different vendor who offers a similar product with free processing? You are the person purchasing items. You do have the power to request negotiated prices. There is a great deal of competition for your orders. Companies are not doing you a favor, you are purchasing funds for your students benefit. We are warrior librarians and we battle on behalf of our students.

If you order new books and get them on the shelves faster, your circulation will increase, demand will grow, and you’ll have more data about reading needs and instructional evidence. Plus you’ll be able to document what you did with your time instead of processing. Do you think administrators would like to see a comparison?

Spent one hour teaching students how to take notes and read for information (a skill on every state test) Spent one hour typing labels, covering books, and adding Marc records.
Spent one hour doing booktalks to help students learn to match their personal needs with life-long reading choices. Spent one hour typing labels, covering books, and adding Marc records.
Hourly wage for librarian Cost of processing books
Direct instruction by the only professional trained in the building Tasks that can be completed by someone not even in your building

Talk to me readers. Where do you stand? What is your budget? Do you generate additional revenue?

Imagine Nation bookfairs

  • Posted on November 20, 2008 at 6:00 AM

Imagine bookfairs done differently. Jason Johnson visited my school last spring to share information about Imagine Nation Books School Book Fairs. You might know the company for their corporate book fairs at hospitals and corporations. If you click through the About Us pages, you’ll recognize their history in the industry. Now they are reaching out to more schools. Have you heard about them?

Key points Jason mentioned (but which could vary according to your local rep):

  • They will have a team onsite to setup your event and will stay until its completion.
  • Point of Sale System will be provided at each fair for those who want to use it. (Does that mean a cash register?)
  • An amount of merchandise will be awarded to the school at each event simply for hosting the event. These items can be used as free books for teachers or however host should decide. 
  • Posters, flyers, and email announcements will be provided prior to the event to promote it. 
  • Imagine Nation may bring the startup cash to be used as change for the event. (remember this is contingent upon your local rep) Imagine! No more running to the grocery store or gas station to get the 1’s, 5’s, quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies needed the night before your fair. Or is that just me?
  • Shopping bags may be provided. 
  • Flexible Rebates awarded with the host deciding on the rebate. An example would be all cash, all books, or a combination of both.
  • No Contract! 
  • Host is not held liable for any lost, stolen, or damaged items for the event.
  • Employee and Key Volunteers discounts may be offered.
  • There are no delayed payments. The rebate will be paid at close of the event provided the sponsor is on the premises to accept checks, books, etc. 
  • An Imagine Nation Books team will break down the event and assist in moving back any fixtures moved for the event. 

Okay, this seems like someone else is coming in and doing most of the work. Some of the features are the same as the other company out there. I think I need more information. What do the books look like? What is their average price? Are parents happy? Do they provide marketing, decorations, and advertising tools? I don’t believe they have a video. What else is different? How large are their fairs? How many titles are shipped? How many fairs can the local company support simultaneously? Are they located across the USA? Do they provide cash registers? Are they charging me a $30 fee for gas even when gas prices have fallen to their lowest levels in 4 years? Do they process credit and debit cards?

I’m in the midst of planning a HUGE bookfair with the other company right now. I expect it will be a great success because I have that student crew of over 200 students working, planning, advertising, etc. Am I tempted to check out the other company? Yes, but this fair I’m focusing on my good relationship with the other company. We’ll see how sales go, whether the books are affordable to my students, and what the parent response is. 

I’m interested in how many other people have hosted both types of book fairs. Here is a response from one librarian I know:

Several people have asked for my opinion of Imagine Nation Book Fairs done by Jason Johnson.  We were his first Metro school and had our fair last week.  Overall I am very pleased.  They set the fair up and packed it up.  We had extra cashier table items, books, etc that we could put out when needed.  Change was furnished for startup.  When I called Jason with questions or requests for more items, the questions were answered and he brought the items.  Customer service was far superior to the other company.  The selection of books was as good or better than the other company. I LOVED not having to lift boxes, etc.  We sold more than we ever have and we only had a four day week to sell.  I got $XXX of free books for having the fair and XX% profit however I wanted it, books or cash.  I plan to book with them again.  If you have any specific questions feel free to email or call me. 

In the meantime, I’m going to test how a book fair goes at the middle school level the week after Thanksgiving/Fall Break and I’ll get back to you with details. Feel free to go do my comparison shopping for me.

Value My Time More

  • Posted on November 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

You librarians need to start valuing your time more. That’s what Eric Fitzgerald from Capstone Press told me. We were discussing book processing and librarians’ obsessive need to do it ourselves to have it perfect. 

Did you know that you can make special requests of vendors? You can ask them to stamp your books or put a printed label inside identifying your school so you don’t have to stamp it. (Can you tell I don’t like to stamp books?) You can request that vendors use their best judgments and create spine labels that don’t wrap around. If the label needs to be printed sideways to fit, they can figure this out as well as you and get it done alot faster. 

Most vendors have people sitting there doing nothing but perfectly placing labels all day long. That sure beats how I process a book. I do one step, am interrupted, go back to see where I was & do another step, help the next student, answer the phone, pull materials for a teacher, do the next step, teach two classes simultaneously, then go back to remember where I was in the processing step. It takes me WAY too long to process one book. Consider that I added over 1000 books this school year to the collection. How much time did I spend or did the vendor processing specialists spend preparing the books? Would it be worth it to pay for someone to do your books? 

Don’t forget putting on the mylar book jackets! Those take me forever to do because I have to clear off counters, drag out the materials, remember how to do them, begin placing the cover, deal with teachers and students who are lining up while I’m processing, go back to resmoothing the cover, answer the telephone, fold the mylar over the cover, help the life-skills class during the mandatory evacuation drill, go back to resmooth the cover, locate the tape, answer the phone, and finally tape the cover to the book. 

In the priority list of my day, taping covers just doesn’t seem as important as teaching students and working with teachers.  I plan to do a much better job of purchasing processing this year so I can focus my time on instruction.

I value my time so much that when I meet with vendors, I make special requests. I ask them to create 2 or 3 lists as we order and preview. One list is for 1st priority nonfiction, one is for 2nd priority nonfiction, and the third is for fiction. This helps me reduce my time editing orders. I also ask vendors to help me locate titles in very specific ranges. For example, I have been known to say that I need reptile books for interest level 5-9 at a reading level of grades 3 up, with a copyright no earlier than 2006, with color illustrations, and that appeal to my ESL/ELL populations. They must have 48 pages, include TOC, index, and web links.

One vendor, Ben Cowan, happened to visit my lair – I mean my room – right after I’d printed a collection analysis. He helped me study the average ages and number of titles for specific Dewey ranges and immediately started sorting through which series he offered to meet those needs. Then he helped develop a spreadsheet that indicated the DDC so I could present a thorough case to my principal for ordering needed materials. 

One vendor, J.T. Fisher of Children’s Plus, read my blog to see what titles students were requesting. He then searched his offerings to help me match needs with resources. That was without my even asking. 

Another vendor read my facebook message and contacted me to help order books. Vendors want to help. If they need to type the order for us, they’ll do it. If we need them to track what we’ve already ordered from them, they’ll often do this.