6 Book Fair Survivial Tips

Scholastic book fair

Book fair! The two words guaranteed to strike fear in the heart of any school librarian. That may be a little melodramatic but book fair week is definitely a very stressful and challenging time. If you have ever run a book fair before then you know what I mean.

There are many factors that go into just how challenging your book fair will be. How big is your school? Will you have parent volunteers? Are you going to stop book checkout during this time?

A librarian at a nearby school has less students and more volunteers than she could ever use. She love the book fair and can't wait for it to arrive. I have a large school with very few volunteers, so my assistant and I pretty much do it all. For us book fair time is exhausting.

No matter what your situation though, it is always best to be prepared. I have been the chairperson of over 30 book fairs. And while I am by no means a book fair expert, I have learned a lot over the years that I wanted to share with you. Below are a few of my tips for running a successful book fair without losing your mind.

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#1: Set clear guidelines and rules before the fair opens

If you have already run a book fair before then you most likely already have these in place. But for anyone new to the world of book fairs this is vital.

These include:
  • when can students come to the fair to purchase their books?
  • when can students come to the fair to just look around?
  • do students need to have money to be at the book fair after they have already looked with their class?
  • when can parents come to the fair?
  • will students check out books during this time?
Whatever guidelines you come up with make sure you communicate them with all staff members, the office, parents, and students. Repeatedly. And yes, you will still be asked 50 times when students can come to the book fair (usually by the same teacher).

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#2: Talk to your bookkeeper

One of the biggest responsibilities of the book fair is managing all of the financial "stuff". The first step is to talk with your bookkeeper. What will you do with the money at the end of the day? When does your bookkeeper make deposits? Find out what policies you need to follow and any special guidelines required by your school or district.

A book fair can take in a lot of money. That money has to be counted and sorted. If you accept checks you need to know if there are any special instructions you need to follow. I have to write down every check number, the name on the check and the amount on a separate form for my bookkeeper's records. 

Also, be prepared for a lot of change. And by change I mean pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Students will empty their piggy banks and scrounge around their house to find money for the book fair. They will come to the book fair with baggies full of it. This change will have to be counted and rolled. Scholastic does have a coin sorting machine in their rewards catalog which is a big help (although mine broke after a year).

The EasyScan machines make this process much easier than it used to be (we used to use paper receipt books and calculators).

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#3 Make sure you have the books showcased in the flyer and video

These are likely to be best sellers at your fair so make sure you have plenty of copies ahead of time. And make sure that these items were sent to you. I can’t tell you how many times one of the featured books was not sent to me at all.

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#4 Organize the cases to meet your needs

I put the book cases in two different sections, K-2 on one side and 3-5 on the other. Once the bulk of the fair is set up I will go through each case and organize them. I pull out all the haardcover books and put them on a table (I do not want kids to put them on wishlists since they are so expensive and many students make wish lists from the cases only). I also pull out any book that I feel is not suitable for the age and items that have stickers, 3D glasses or a toy in them. I then group the books together in the cases. For example, I will put the easy chapter books in one spot and move all the Barbie books so they are next to each other. This makes it easier to find items later and it helps me to learn what is in the cases. I will do the same for the cases for the older students. It sounds like a time-consuming process but I find I can do it rather quickly and it helps make the fair run smoother.

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#5 Don't be afraid to reorder

I always place a reorder the day I set up the fair. These are items that I know I will need more of, items they did not send and were supposed to and items that I know will be a huge hit. Sometimes I will do this just to see if they have the items in stock.

Place an order the first few days of your fair. Make sure you have plenty of stock on hand. I would much rather send items back then run out of them (just my personal opinion). Also, make sure you place a larger order before any planned family events. And I have never had anyone from Scholastic question me about my restock order.

Thankfully it is easier than ever to send reorders with the book fair app. If you haven't used it yet give it a try.

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#6: Do what works best for YOU

Running a book fair is a lot of work and a lot of responsibility. If you don’t have many volunteers it’s even more challenging. Look through the ideas catalog and see what you may be able to use. They have some fabulous ideas in there but it may be unrealistic to try and incorporate some of them into your fair. You might want to choose the decorating kit as your free planning gift. I have done this in the past and it has really helped.

Don't try and do too many family events. Choose one and advertise it well.

If you need to stop book checkout during this time then do so! There is no way I could check out books during the book fair. Thankfully I have had support for this decision, I know some librarians are not allowed to do this. You can always have the teacher keep some extra books in the classroom.

Let your teachers know that during the book fair you will need extra time to fill materials requests or provide tech. assistance (if that's something you do). Usually, they are very understanding.

I hope that some of my advice will help your fair to run more smoothly and make this time less stressful. I could have added so much more to this list. If you have any questions about running a book fair I would be more than happy to try and answer them for you. And if you have something to add to this list comment and let us know. I can write another post addressing some other concerns or ideas you may have.

Procedures and advice on holding a book fair in the school library

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