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Back in the Golden Days of Aught Five, I was excited to be starting my first elementary school library job. One of my favorite early discoveries was the web comic Unshelved. It kinda blew my mind when I first saw it. A comic devoted solely to libraries and librarians? Really? My job? Well, I guess I’m still processing this. I took to reading the comic every day, and continue to get the strip beamed to me daily in my RSS reader.

One of the best parts of the comic are the weekend booktalk strips. Called Unshelved Book Club, they take a recent title, describe it, and encourage others to read it.

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The use of Unshelved as a book promotion tool was immediately evident to some savvy librarians, who began prominently posting the comics next to copies of the book. The creators are cool with this practice, and encourage it on their site. Never one to have a fresh idea of my own (and fearing all forms of bulletin board and display case decorating), I flat out copied this idea to outstanding results at the 5th and 6th grade building where I work. What follows are the steps I took, so that you too may join in the fun.

Step 1. Read the Comics

This may seem obvious (Opening a Door, Step #1: Turn knob), but it is important. If you don’t regularly read Unshelved, go to the website and take a look at what the comic is all about. Check out the Sunday strips and see which books might fit with your library. I scanned as far back as I could and pulled every strip about a book that would appeal to the 5th and 6th grade students I was aiming for. Here’s the links to those (my Children’s Book Week gift to you):

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Magic Pickle by Scott Morse

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson

Owly by Andy Runton

Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller

Kampung Boy by Lat

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

These are the books that fit best with my library, if you’re looking for something different, click here to see every book they’ve featured.

Step 2. Print and Laminate

Once you identify which ones will fly with the kids you work with, print them out (use color or the whole gambit may be in jeopardy) and warm up the laminator. While enjoying the unique aroma it gives off, daydream of the excitement you will be generating for some truly deserving books. Laminate the strips you selected. Unlaminated paper around kids just isn’t going to work (so says Curly McFoldedandtorn, the unlaminated sheet of white paper).

Step 3. Buy Extra Copies

I made sure to order extra paperback copies of the books that I would be promoting this year with Unshelved. As booktalking librarians will tell you, getting caught without enough copies is not good. It’s like dangling a roll of fresh-from-the-freezer thin mints in front of a kid’s (or my) face and then pulling them away at the last second – it just ain’t fair. Decide on the books you want to use, and order some more copies. It is my experience that you always wish you had purchased one or two more – so purchase one or two more.

Step 4. Display

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So you’ve got your freshly laminated Unshelved strips, you’ve got your extra copies of the books, here’s where the magic happens. Prominently display the comic next to a crop of the books. It doesn’t have to be fancy (see above clipboard). If the book is part of a series (like Ranger’s Apprentice, shown above) I also put out book 2, 3 and 4. They will get checked out. I rotate the featured book on a monthly basis to keep things fresh. A highly recommended form of book promotion.

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