Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Fair Tip #5--Stop Sweating the Small Stuff

I used to hate selling those small items at the book fair. Things like pencils, erasers, pocket tissues, bookmarks, small pencil sharpeners, stickers, and the like. There were small, easily stolen, and just a general pain to deal with. I considered not selling them at all, but the small stuff is really great for students who have only a dollar to spend or want to spend their change. The small items sell well, and those small amounts add up to big dollars for our library (which ultimately means more library books!).

I have a book fair coming up in early September 2012. When I set it up, I will add pictures of my small stuff tables to this post. In the meantime, here are my tips. If you have other tips for the small stuff, please comment!

Tape one of each small item to a table near the register. 


Keep the rest of your stock organized and labeled behind the register area. If an item comes in multiple colors, I usually tape down one of each color. Taping down your items will help reduce theft and keep your small stuff organized and neat.

I tape the items to the table with 3" book tape, and I've never had any item on the table walk away. A word of caution: The book tape is very strong and will leave residue and/or fade marks on your table. Cover the table with butcher paper to keep the table clean.

If you do not have a table available or want your small items to be mobile, taping the small items to poster or presentation board will also work. Once I even wrapped a tall easel in butcher paper and taped items to that. It worked great!

Tape a price tag near each item so students don't have to constantly ask the price. 

If you just put the small items out in the provided book fair displays, students have to constantly look for that teeny-tiny or nonexistent price tag. This means you constantly have to answer "how much."

When I tape small items to the table by the register, I use a black sharpie to write price tags on small slips of paper. These tags are right next to the item. They are clear and easily visible. My price tags for the small stuff always include sales tax. Instead of writing .50 on the tag, I write .55, which includes the tax. I also put a big sign on the table that says "All prices on this table INCLUDE tax."

When creating your price tag labels, you might also want to name the item on the price tag. This way, I know exactly which item the students are asking for. Instead of asking for the blue pencil (there may be 5 different blue pencils), the students ask for the "blue swirly pencil" because I labeled that pencil as such. This saves time and energy because I can find that exact pencil quickly.

Got calculators? Use them!

Some book fairs contain calculators for sale. Last spring, we had these really cute chocolate bar calculators. I purchased two calculators for our library and kept them by the register for students to use to tally their own purchases. This helped free me from constantly helping them add, and it also helped sell some of the calculators.

Make a copy of the small items barcode sheet. 


Cut out the barcodes and tape them to the table next to each item. Seriously, how many precious minutes have you wasted looking for the correct barcode to scan on those sheets?

Taping the barcode beside the actual item speeds things up and minimizes mistakes. It will also help volunteers easily find the prices.

Stop thinking you have to sell every item the book fair sends you!

Scholastic sometimes sends me items I don't want to put out. Pocket tissues and small notebooks great examples of this--they are just incredibly overpriced, and I just can't bring myself to charge a student $4.99 for a pack of 20 tissues or $3.99 for a notebook that might cost 50 cents at Wal-Mart. If I don't want to include a particular item in my fair, I just leave it in the box.

Next tip: Know the location of every item in your book fair flyer.

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  1. I love this book fair tips series! Great idea.

  2. @A Bookshelf Monstrosity-- Thank you! I remember being a new librarian and feeling like I had NO guidance on book fairs!

  3. I'm so glad I found your husband is helping me set up our schools book fair which starts tomorrow.....last night I almost cried while unpacking TONS of boxes thinking....where will all of these books go!?!?!? Thanks to your site...I now know that I will not be putting everything they sent me out...We left the school last night in complete disarray and feeling completely overwhelmed...we're going back today for part 2...but I'm feeling better about it after having read your tips....thanks!


    1. Awww, I am feeling for you Jeannette! Those first couple of book fairs are crazy, but you'll get through them! It sounds like your husband is a great volunteer! As far as the extra books go, don't forget that you can stack them on top of the cases (lay them down face-up, then stand one up on top using either a book stand or just the open book standing up by itself). Use your book fair boxes to store the rest under your tables until you need them.

  4. My Co-Chair made a card board trifold of all the small stuff. Each piece was displayed with the price. It worked great and took up very little space.
    I like having calculators available for the students. I don't put out everything. Some of it is just junk. I tell the kids that this is a BOOK fair. I limit them to to Chachis ie small stuff. I might put some of the stuff out during parent teacher conferences and let the parents say yes or no.


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