Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Actually Happens to Your Books?

As I was sitting in my room last night, processing the latest (AMAZING - story to follow in another blog post) shipment of books for my school, I realized that you might be interested to know what actually happens to the books you send. Here's the process (I'll attach pictures to this someday, but I am on vacation now and don't want to go up to my classroom for at least one more day!):

  1. The boxes arrive at Tafuna airport on one of the 2 flights a week that bring mail. They are sorted and brought to the post office in Pago Pago, where a yellow slip is added to WorldTeach's PO Box indicating a package is ready to be picked up. There are so many packages here that the post office uses a yellow cardstock and simply writes our box number on the back, so no one ever really knows how many packages are waiting.
  2. My field director, Alison, checks the PO Box and does a package run (usually on Thursdays, though she tries to go more than once a week during the holidays, just in case...). If there are any boxes for me, she either contacts my host mom, Mata, who passes Alison's office on her way to work, or me (if there are only a few... to see if I'm coming into town and can pick them up myself). 
  3. Once the boxes arrive in Vatia, they usually get unloaded to my door by the kids (CJ and Matalin). Then, the work begins...
  4. The first thing I do after opening the boxes and doing happy dance is to label all books with "WorldTeach donated by _____." Each book you send has your name (or orgainzation's name) in it. I do this for 2 reasons. One, it identifies that the books have been donated through WorldTeach, which means that the DOE has no claim to them if ever challenged. Second, and most importantly, it allows me to say a "thank you" for each book as I write the donor's name(s) inside. This is my favorite part of the whole process because I get to think about YOU and skim through each book!
  5. The next step (which I've only just recently added) is to bind the edges and spine of the book with tape. I took a hint from some books that had been donated by teachers to make the books hold up better. Island weather and kids who are not used to caring for books lead to a lot of issues keeping books in good condition. We are working on the latter (it takes a long time to educate a community and change old habits, but I can see progress already), and I'm hoping the tape helps with the former as well.
  6. Books are then cataloged into my database and given a number. I write the number onto a sticker and attach it to the back corner of the book. This makes it easy to log the books borrowed into my other database. I'm trying to keep track of statistics: numbers of students attending, number of books borrowed daily, the frequency that each book is borrowed. I'm no Excel wiz, but I'm giving it a shot.
  7. Finally, I attach a colored label to the book's spine that indiciates where it is shelved. The labels say "Vatia Reads!" and the genre (fiction, science, animals, biography, social studies, etc.). The colors help my students put the books back in an area that's generally correct. 
  8. Soon, I'll be adding one more step: Attaching a letter to each book that will help keep books within each genre organized by author or topic.
The books are always presented to my fourth graders before I put them on the shelves. Usually this happens before the processing because I want them to benefit from having the books available as soon as possible. They are always thrilled and want to know who they came from (and the backstory of how you are all somehow connected to me).

Once books are on the shelves, they are free to be borrowed. Students come in every day of the week to look through and borrow books. They each have a library card (an index card) on which they write the title and number of each book they borrow. Each card has room for 10 titles, and some students are on their 3rd cards already. On the back of the card, I write "Vatia Reads!" in marker, and students move through the colors in the order of the rainbow. That means, I have some "Yellow Readers" already.

I hope this sheds some light on the "afterlife" of your books! Thank you, again, for everything!


  1. That's amazing!!! Thanks for sharing... I was really curious how it all worked. Yaaay!

  2. Wow, I would love to read this one. I find the subject fascinating and would love to know more about the latest studies and research.
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