November 24, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Create Buzz Around Reading with a Pop-Up Library

Hauer shows off her mobile book station at an outside event.

Hauer shows off her mobile book station at an outside event.

As school librarians, we often seek new ways to reach reluctant readers, or busy students, who do not regularly visit the library. At the same time, we want to promote library services in a positive and engaging way. A pop-up library is an easy and exciting vehicle to engage students, foster a love of reading, and build relationships. My idea was to try one at my high school that traded on the popularity of pop-up gardens, shops, and cafes.

Preparation

Pulling a pop-up library together is fairly simple, and can be modified to meet the needs of a particular school’s students. Think about what your students might like. Here’s what I did, step by step:

  1. Fill a two-sided book cart with popular, high-interest fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels. I included new books, titles made into recent movies, popular teen authors, and books I could “book talk” well.
  2. Create a “Pop-Up Library” sign with a simple image of books and large, easy-to-read font.
  3. Clip a piece of paper with columns for name, book title, and barcode to a clipboard, with a pen.
  4. Borrow a card table or other light, small table and a brightly colored tablecloth.
  5. Gather a few book easels from my library.
  6. Place the sign, clipboard, tablecloth, and easels on the cart for easy transport.
  7. Push the book cart and carry the table to your selected location. Consider where and when students gather. Usually, that’s in the cafeteria, lobby, courtyard, or ends of hallways. Thinking about the location and time of day in advance increases traffic, and thus, success.
  8. Cover the table with the tablecloth, hang the sign, and display books on easels. Use the clipboard for checking out books.

Promotion

One of the best things about the pop-up concept is that once you decide on your basic set up, the event can be spontaneous. Librarians can promote the pop-up library by tweeting the time and location that morning or as the event starts. You can also think about a time of year when interest might be high. For example, my students have suggested having a pop-up event before a long weekend or holiday break. Once students see the pop-up library, they may be your best promoters by spreading the news via social media and word of mouth. Ask student library aides and teachers to talk up the pop-up library event as well.

Possible Adjustments

Taking notes during and after each pop-up will help you change course to better meet the needs of your students. Ask students what they would like to see on the cart, and if they have any other suggestions. Your notes and experiences will help you improve each event. For instance, for the first pop-up library I held, I brought an iPad to check out books using our online catalog. I discovered I spent a lot of time using the iPad and little time engaging with students. For the next event, I switched to the clipboard method, with the borrower filling out the information. I found I could spend more time talking with students and staff and making suggestions. Then, when I went back to the library, I used the information on the clipboard to check out the items in the online catalog.

Remember, a pop-up library is by nature a small, though enticing, sampling. As hard as it is, you can’t try to bring all your favorite books with you! If a student is looking for a title you don’t have, or makes a request, tell him or her you will hold the book at the circulation desk. (Notetaking is another way that clipboard comes in handy.) Plus, now that student is visiting the library.

Feedback

My pop-up library helped me build relationships with staff and students by providing an opportunity for them to see me outside of the traditional library space. I was able to participate in casual conversations about books with students and help them find a book on an individual level. Students gathered around the pop-up library and make recommendations to each other and to the librarian. Tricia Ebarvia, an English teacher at my school, appreciates “the playfulness and element of surprise that pop-up libraries can bring. They serve as a powerful piece to building a reading culture in a school.”

Students were pleasantly surprised to see the library around the campus in unexpected places. Students would thank me for having the event or approach me with curiosity, asking, “Wow, what’s this?” I also heard that browsing a large collection can be overwhelming, and that having access to a smaller, curated selection is more inviting.

Assistant Principal Anthony DiLella commented, “I wish there had been a pop-up library when I was in high school. Having a librarian who would have taken the time to learn my personal interests and present books based on those interests would have inspired me to explore more literature.”

If you’re looking for a fun way to create a buzz about reading and your library, consider trying your own pop-up library. Make adjustments as you go, then enjoy the positive feedback from students and staff.


Brooke Hauer is a high school librarian at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA.

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Comments

  1. I have done something similar while my two middle school libraries have been closed for standardized testing. I load up our most popular titles on a book cart and take my “bookmobile” to classrooms or to the “pods” in the middle of grouped classrooms. I add a laptop and scanner, and I’m ready to go. It’s a great way to get books to students when testing keeps them out of my space.