Book Fairs 2022: Nightingale + McNally Jackson

Hello, HVLA world! Megan Westman (she/her) here, HVLA Secretary and Lower School Librarian & Equity Coordinator at the Nightingale-Bamford School. I’m happy to share reflections from our May 2022 Book Fair – the first our community has held in person since May 2019. 

The Nightingale Book Fair is a collaboration between our Parents Association and Library department, led by our Upper School Librarian and department head Elizabeth Fernandez. Parents provided invaluable support for Fair set up, maintenance, check out, and take down. We were lucky to be flush with volunteers at all times over the three days of Fair prep and activities: set up + preview night and two full days of shopping. 

We’ve worked with McNally Jackson Books as our vendor since the 2018-2019 school year and have been really happy with their partnership while navigating all of the transitions of the last few years. We were proud to be McNally Jackson’s first virtual fair during the pandemic! Emily Woods, our McNally Jackson rep, is knowledgeable, communicative, and very open to feedback. Emily also helped us find two amazing authors – E.L. Shen of The Comeback and Wendy Xu of Tidesong – to speak at our Authors Night. Authors Night provided a chance for students to hear from these amazing authors, get their books signed, and shop the fair ahead of the official opening the next day.

Our first in-person Fair since 2019 brought with it so many incredibly joyful moments: our Middle School emcees at Authors Night gushing about the presenters, our Class I Mock Caldecott winner – Mel Fell – selling out within hours, the awed looks on our Kindergarteners’ faces as they made their way into the transformed auditorium, and the many moments of connection with parents who we haven’t seen in the building in years – just to name a few! There was a lot to love in the room that helped to balance the stress of the weeks leading up to the Fair and the exhaustion of two days of hand-selling books

A big part of this year’s Fair for our community was getting comfortable with a selection that wasn’t directly tied to our Summer Reading lists. Prior to the pandemic, families could show up with a printed list and largely shop the selection based on that list alone. This year’s inventory was curated by McNally Jackson, so it was less aligned with our lists. Families were able to get on board pretty quickly when we reassured them that the librarians trust McNally Jackson and considered anything from the Fair to be great summer reading! Moving away from being so list-aligned also made space for students to really shop for what excited them, rather than feeling beholden to a list from their teachers. I’m really excited about this change and what it means for independent summer reading going forward. 

Below you’ll find a handful of thoughts about what went well and what could be better as we look to the future. 

Successes of this year’s Nightingale + McNally Jackson Book Fair:

  • This year’s Fair was held over two days instead of one, as we’d done in the past. The extra breathing room between groups visiting the fair throughout the school day was so, so helpful. 
  • McNally Jackson ran a virtual fair during the Book Fair & for two weeks after. This gave families the flexibility to shop on their own time and buy any books that were out of stock during their time to visit the Fair.
  • McNally Jackson delivered about half of the stock in boxes and half on pre-organized carts by audience and genre. The rolling carts made moving stock much easier and provided great, engaging displays! Because I’m particular about organization and access (as so many of us in this profession are), we ended up swapping things around on the carts and creating our own system for what would be displayed there, but they were still incredibly helpful nonetheless. And a breeze to pack up for pick up; we simply loaded extra stock onto the carts to be rolled away!
  • One of the re-organized carts became a “Nightingale Reads!” cart (pictured below), which we filled with picture books that were read in the Lower School this year at assemblies, during author visits, and in the Class I Mock Caldecott. Many of these books (including all of the picture books from our most recent visiting author – Katie Yamasaki) sold out! Students were excited to see these books featured and the cart gave parents a window into Lower School reading life.

Things to consider to improve the Book Fair in the future: 

  • May is SO busy for librarians. We are all up to our necks in research projects and it was incredibly hard to step away from classes & co-teaching research for several days for the Fair. We’re considering moving our Fair earlier in the year to create more balance for the Library department.
  • We had a few notes on the inventory McNally Jackson sent us. The first was that we’d like popular series stock to focus on the first + last in a series. We didn’t have large numbers of any first-in-series books, which became a problem pretty quickly. Students were disappointed to see that we only had #3 in the Aru Shah series or #2 of Ryan Hart, and we missed out on some great book matches because of lack of availability. 
  • The other big note re: stock is painful to say as a Lower School librarian… We needed fewer picture books! Because we don’t have a Pre-K program at Nightingale, we probably could have had 50-75% of the number of picture books and been totally fine. They take up so much space at the fair, so the number really matters. That said – the books selected were WONDERFUL.

Overall, the Nightingale librarians love working with McNally Jackson and highly recommend partnering with them for Book Fairs, both virtual and in person! Our community was delighted to gather for an in person celebration of books and reading. We made lots of lovely connections with parents and caregivers and brought a lot of joy to our readers, from the Kindergarteners to our adult community. 

Special thanks to our whole wonderful librarian team: Elizabeth Fernandez (Upper School Librarian), Tina Chesterman (Middle School Librarian), and Phyllis Heitjan (Library Associate). Feel free to be in touch if you have any questions about working with McNally Jackson. I’m happy to sing their praises.

Megan Westman

Lower School Librarian & Equity Coordinator

The Nightingale-Bamford School 

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