Linking Your Book Sale With Classrooms In Need

Before you begin to consider school districts that might benefit from the Books For Teachers program, take a look at your book sale’s features and assess your readiness to distribute vouchers to teachers.

  • How many volumes do you offer for sale?
  • How many categories of subjects are there?
  • Do you have sufficient staffing to administer a Books For Teachers program?
  • Does your book sale run during a period when teachers are able to attend?
  • Are you in a location that is easily accessible to buyers who live outside your community?


Taking the above factors into consideration will help you start to visualize how the Books For Teachers program might work at your library book sale.  Ideally, participants will have many books to choose from with subjects that are suited for students from kindergarten through high school. 

A book sale that is open only when teachers are in school would not be a good match for the program.  Likewise, a remote location that is distant from public transportation or sufficient parking might dampen your chances of success with the program.

If it is a challenge for your book sale to attract dedicated year-round volunteers or if your library is in the midst of other major priorities, then the Books For Teachers program will probably be a poor fit for your library at this time.

If, however, your assessment shows that you’re ready and eager to implement the Books For Teachers program at your book sale, then here’s what you need to do.


How the Program Works

         If you are an organizer of a library book sale, then you are probably interested in raising as much money as you can for your library.  Publicity, quality book donations, pricing, a convenient location, ample parking, a friendly atmosphere and the weather are factors that can affect how many people attend your sale and how many books they buy.

         The Books For Teachers program can boost attendance and provide your library with a guaranteed source of income for a portion of your total sales.   Who would resist a concept like that?

         The way it works is as follows:  a charitable foundation provides funding to your library to support the Books for Teachers program.   The funding pays for the books purchased by eligible teachers at your book sale.  Teachers receive a voucher to present to book sale cashiers, and their purchases are recorded at a central location at the book sale until the entire voucher is used up.  Teachers then supplement their classroom libraries with the purchases made at the book sale.

         All you have to do is work with the charitable foundation to identify eligible communities and then work with the communities to publicize the program to their teachers.  You may decide to set the amount of the individual vouchers ahead of time and then devise a way to select the teachers who will be allowed to participate in the program. Or you might wait to see how many teachers respond before setting the voucher amount.  Either way, you’ll end up selling a good portion of your book sale inventory to teachers from communities in need.

         The following pages provide an outline of how your library might implement a “Books for Teachers” program at your book sale.  As you move through the process, you may find that you need to fine-tune the approach to suit your situation. 

The Reneé B. Fisher Foundation is prepared to offer the funding for this voucher program, including a small grant to cover administrative costs. 

The outline presented is based on four years of experience in running a “Books for Teachers” program at the Pequot Library Book Sale in Southport, Connecticut.  The Reneé B. Fisher Foundation provided an annual grant to the library to support this program, which benefits teachers and their students in Bridgeport and New Haven public schools. 


Attracting Qualified Applicants

Step 1:  Identify eligible communities for the “Books for Teachers” program


         As the concept of “Books for Teachers” began to take shape, it was the Reneé B. Fisher Foundation’s wish to lend support to teachers from public schools in Bridgeport and New Haven, Connecticut.  Compared with state averages, these two urban communities have lower per capita income, higher poverty and high school dropout rates, and below-average performance on state mastery tests. (Sources:  Connecticut Economic Resource Center and Connecticut State Department of Education). 

         You many not need to look at statistics to know which communities near your library are in need of funding to improve their classroom libraries, but you may want to consult with school superintendents or teacher associations to get a better idea of how critical the need really is.  Perhaps there are schools within a large district that merit more attention than others.  You can find this out by speaking to the officials in charge. Once they know what your mission is, they will be more than willing to work with you on starting a “Books for Teachers” program at your library.


Step 2:  Contact teachers


         The first year of the program at Pequot Library, letters were mailed to school principals asking them to select teachers for the program.  Only a few teachers responded and even fewer made the trip to the library’s summer book sale.  Those who did, however, were ecstatic about the results.

         The second year of the program, book sale volunteers worked with the Bridgeport Education Association, the city’s teachers union, which posted flyers in the teachers’ mailrooms.  Teachers were invited to contact Pequot Library for an application form.  Given the positive experience of teachers the previous year, more teachers applied. All applicants were accommodated that year and the next. 
         Last summer, book sale volunteers contacted the school superintendents directly in Bridgeport and New Haven.  Citing the success of the program in previous years and noting how teachers used the books acquired at the book sale, they were able to obtain permission from the Bridgeport superintendent to email all teachers about the program through the teachers union.  Because the program was being initiated for the first time in New Haven, the superintendent there assigned the job of selecting teachers to the city’s Reading Specialist.

Click here to download a sample letter

Click here to download a sample application form

Click here to download a sample general postcard for a sale


Step 3:  Getting Teachers to Attend Your Book Sale

         All correspondence with teachers should include the dates of your book sale and any information they need to know to have a successful shopping experience.  You will probably want teachers to apply to the program a few months before your book sale so that you can gauge what attendance might be and set the amount of the voucher depending on how much demand there is for the program.

         Receiving applications early, however, means that teachers may not have their schedules yet for other commitments that might arise during the book sale.  It’s important to stress to the teachers that as soon as they know they will be unable to attend the book sale, they should inform you so that you can award their voucher to another teacher on your waiting list.

         Pequot Library sent teachers a postcard listing the dates and times of the sale and which day the books were double the marked price, the marked price, half price or free.  Advice was offered on the best days and times to attend.  In addition, teachers were given a list of the categories of books plus any publicity about the book sale from previous years exclaiming the popularity of the event.   Comments from teachers who attended the book sale in previous years were also included in the mailings.

Click here to download a sample list of categories.

Click here to download a sample survey .

Pre-Sale Administration

Step 1:  Keeping Track of Responses

         Depending on where you direct teachers to submit their applications, responses will be coming in to you via email, fax and regular mail.  It is important to store this information in the order in which it is received in case you are oversubscribed.  You will probably want to approve applications on a first come first served basis, so keeping track of which responses came in first is crucial.
Ideally, someone with a computer background will keep track of teacher responses.  For email responses, rather than printing out each email separately, it might be cost-effective to cut and paste the responses into a Microsoft Word document in chronological order.

Your library may have its own database management system, in which case it would be simple enough for a staff member to record the teacher information.  If not, a book sale volunteer may be willing to enter the names of teachers, their school, grade, and relevant contact information into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.  The database format is useful in constructing mailing lists and analyzing where responses are coming from.

Step 2:  Constructing Your Mailing List

         If your library has a database management system, you will need to work with the staff member on recording the teacher responses.  If not, and you are familiar with Microsoft Word and Excel programs, it’s very easy to construct a mailing list from the Excel spreadsheet.  If your book sale does not have computer access, it is simple enough to enter the teacher information on index cards so they may be sorted as needed. 

         At a minimum, you should record the following information:

  • Teacher’s name
  • School
  • Grade
  • School address and phone number
  • Home address and phone number (especially if you will be mailing their voucher to them during the summer)
  • Email address
  • Date application received
  • In subsequent years, you may want to note whether the teacher is a returning participant.

If you are entering the information into an Excel spreadsheet, enter the
teacher’s first name, last name, address, city, state and zip code in separate columns.  This will make sorting easier at a later date.

Using Microsoft Word, construct your mailing list using the “Letters
and Mailings” command under “Tools”. Go to “Mail Merge Wizard” and follow the step-by-step instructions provided.  When it comes time to “select recipients”, click on “Browse” and find the Excel file used to store the teacher information. 


Step 3:  Confirm Teacher Participation and Prepare Voucher

         Once you have your mailing list, print out the teachers’ addresses onto blank mailing labels and prepare your letter confirming their participation in the Books for Teachers program. 


        Click here to download a sample second letter.

         You will also want to prepare the voucher that teachers will use to purchase books at your sale.  Pequot Library has used a laminated “identification card” with the teacher’s name printed on the card. The card is mailed with the letter and teachers must bring this card with them to the sale. 

A sample card is attached (Schedule 4).


At The Sale

Step 1:  Orientation for book sale cashiers

         The grant your library receives will be determined by the dollar value of books the teachers purchase.  You will want to make sure that all of the book sale cashiers are aware of this feature so that each purchase can be properly recorded.  It is of the utmost importance that cashiers, when presented with a Books for Teachers voucher, either record the total amount of the purchase in a binder or, if there are multiple cashier stations at your book sale, that the teacher reports to a central location to record his or her purchase. 

         Without a record of teachers’ purchases, the charitable foundation has no basis for “reimbursing” your library for books sold to teachers.  This would be equivalent to giving your books away for free, which would be helpful to teachers but needlessly counterproductive for the library!

         Cashiers may receive written instructions prior to the book sale on how to process teachers’ purchases, but they should also receive verbal reminders as they begin their shifts at the book sale.

         When a teacher is ready to have his or her purchase totaled, the cashier adds everything, writes a receipt with the total amount listed on it, and sends the teacher to a central location where the purchase is recorded.  The cashier should hold onto the books until the teacher returns from having the purchase recorded. 

Step 2:  Tracking voucher balances

         Teachers’ purchases should be recorded in one central location, so that balances may be tracked.  For example, if the voucher amount is $100 and a teacher finds $30 worth of books to buy on the first day of the sale, the teacher would still have a balance of $70 to spend on subsequent days of the sale.

         At the Pequot Library Book Sale, a three ring binder held pages arranged alphabetically by each teacher’s last name.  Each page listed the date, amount of purchase, a brief description of the books purchased, and the balance of the voucher remaining.  Subsequent purchases were recorded until the entire voucher amount was used up. In a few cases, teachers exceeded the voucher amount and paid the difference in cash.

Step 3:  Obtain feedback from teachers

         Make an effort to speak to the teachers during the book sale.  Suggest that they look through categories other than the obvious ones to find books for their students.  Many teachers will gravitate toward Children’s books, but they may find interesting resources in many other categories – pets and animals, sports, history, performing arts, science, reference, poetry, etc.

         Ask them if they have any suggestions.  Was the size of the voucher adequate?  Would they recommend the Books for Teachers program to a colleague?  How do they plan to use the books in the classroom?  What kind of access to books do their students currently have?

         It might be worth conducting a survey or having the teachers complete a questionnaire.  Their responses might generate some useful information in planning for the next book sale. 

         Attached is a copy of a questionnaire distributed at the 2006 Pequot Library Book Sale (see Schedule 5)

After the Sale

Step 1:  Calculate total purchases through Books for Teachers program

         Enter each teacher’s purchase on the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and total everything up.  The Excel program can generate information on total sales by day, school, etc.

         The total amount of book purchases through the voucher program will be applied against the Foundation’s grant amount, and any balance may be rolled over to the following year.

Step 2:  Report to foundation

         A brief report on the success of the program should be submitted in writing to the foundation.  The report might include the following information:

  • Summary of the program
  • Amount of grant awarded
  • Size of voucher made available to participating teachers
  • Number of teachers in program; number who actually attended book sale
  • What did the teachers buy?
  • Balance of grant remaining
  • Feedback and recommendations for following year


Step 3:  Filing expense report

         Typically, the foundation will make an award to the library for technical support to administer the program.  The award will cover the cost of publicizing the program, communicating with teachers and contacts (office supplies and postage), preparing and laminating the vouchers, and any clerical support provided by library staff.

         Any expenses incurred by volunteer coordinators should be submitted to the library for reimbursement.