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Magazines > Marketing Library Services > March/April 2004
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Information Today
Vol. 17 No. 2 — Mar/Apr 2003
How To

School Library Books: Getting Donations and Exciting the Students
by Kathleen Thomas

"Ms. Thomas, Ms. Thomas, it's my birthday today. Do you have my birthday book? Is it a princess book?" Shannon cries out excitedly as I walk into her Grade One classroom. Her face breaks out into a huge smile and she beams at her classmates as I hold up the book The Barefoot Book of Princesses. Her teacher calls the class to the reading carpet and I start to tell the children about Shannon's birthday book.

How I Get Birthday Book Donations

If you are looking for a way to encourage parents to donate to the library, I highly recommend implementing a birthday book program. It's worked well for me here in British Columbia. Southpointe Acad-emy opened in September 2000 as a private school for students in preschool through Grade 12. In the 2002–2003 school year, I was hired to develop and manage the new library.

So what is a birthday book program and how does it work? At the beginning of each school year, a letter is sent home asking families if they would like their children to participate in the birthday book program. If they would, the parents complete an attached form indicating how much money they would like to donate to the library (between $10 and $25). This donation is then used to purchase a birthday book for their child. These books are really for the library, but they are bought in recognition of the child's birthday. On the form, a parent can indicate what the child's interests are, as well as the child's favorite authors or books. I then try to purchase a book that meets both the interest of the student and the needs of my library. On the child's birthday, I present the book, and he or she is the first student allowed to take it home. Each one has a bookplate inside the front cover acknowledging the donation.

I do not allow families to buy these books themselves. I explain to parents that because I know the existing inventory of the library, I am more familiar with the specific needs of the collection. Furthermore, I can get better prices from my distributors than they can get from bookstores. While I am building up the collections with the birthday book program, my main goal is to find books that excite the students and encourage them to come back to the library for more.

Older Students Enjoy It Too

I have found this program to be popular with both our junior and senior school students. However, I present the books quite differently to the two groups. Junior school students (preschool to Grade Six) love being publicly recognized on their birthdays, so I will present their books in class. If it is a picture book, I read it aloud; if it is a non-fiction title, such as The Story of the Nile, I will pick a couple of pages to discuss; and if it is a novel, I will summarize the main plot for them. I then give the book to the student to borrow for its normal circulation period.

Senior school students generally abhor any situation that puts them in the limelight. So I invite each one to come to the library and I give them their books in relative privacy. They show their appreciation in different ways. For instance, a Grade Eight girl was thrilled when I purchased the latest installment of the Georgia Nicolson series, Dancing In My Nuddy Pants, and I had to repeatedly remind a boy in Grade Nine, who "hates reading" but loves "The Simpsons," to please return Bart Simpson's Guide to Life.

For those senior students who love working with younger ones, I offer another option. If they choose, I will buy picture books that they can then read aloud to younger classes. The student will usually request a book beloved when he or she was "a kid"—although one of my Grade Nine boys had a great time reading Walter, the Farting Dog to a Grade Two class. Of course, the younger students absolutely love having the senior students read aloud to them.

With Birthday Books, Everyone Wins

The birthday book program has been very successful. Last year, when I introduced it, we had a school population of 320 students, and 98 of them participated. Donations to the library totaled more than $2,200. This year, to date, among 380 students, 117 have participated and have raised $2,500.

I find that this program generates a lot of excitement among my students, and that it is an easy but effective way to raise funds for the library. It is also a very good public relations tool. Parents really enjoy the personalized attention their children receive, and they communicate this to others. The school administrators appreciate that I am raising funds for library collections. Furthermore, teachers enjoy the chance to sit back and listen to a good story. Everyone wins!



Kathleen Thomas is the teacher-librarian at South-pointe Academy in Tsawwassen, B.C. She holds a bachelor's in commerce from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., a Professional Develop-ment Program teaching certificate from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., and is working on her Teacher-Librarian certificate from the University of British Columbia. Her e-mail address is

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