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Creative folder storage solutions

Good afternoon!
So here's the situation: We really can't afford new cabinets at our school to hold the almost 200 folders that my choir students need.  I'd like to hear from folks who have come up with creative alternatives that are cost-friendly and make it logistically easy (a big deal in the middle school universe) for students to retrieve their folders and get seated for rehearsal.
If it helps, we currently rehearse in the auditorium, whici is the only space large enough to accommodate my huge choirs.  I have room available backstage and possible along the wings of the stage, but portability would be preferred if I go that route - this auditorium gets a lot of use and I need to be flexible and "share the space" with the community at large.
One choir is about 80 kids, the other is close to 100.  If you'd like mor einformation, feel free to ask.  I'd love to hear what clever ways there are for us to safely store their music.
Dan McGarvey
on February 15, 2012 5:58am
One cheap solution is to take the boxes that photocopying paper comes in.  Strengthen the sides with some duct tape and also put duct tape along the edges  of the box.  You should be able to hang file folders from the sides.  the file folders can either be your choral folder or just hold them.  It's not great, but it's nearly free.  You can establish a box for each grade or part or section of the alphabet. 
There are cardboard filing boxes made specifically for file storage purpose that are sturdier.  There are also plastic rubbermaid bins and carts - some even with wheels.  Each increases in sturdiness and cost.  If you google portable file storage, there's tons of options. 
Jessica Bowen
AMSA Charter School
Marlborough, MA
on February 15, 2012 6:38am
See if there is a parent that would be able to make one out of wood and put it on wheels. Otherwise - Check out OfficeMax or OfficeDepot.
on February 15, 2012 8:01am
Hi Dan, I've seen some custom built systems that didn't look expensive but worked extremely well (but still needing a volunteer with some time on their hands).
The San Francisco Symphony Chorus took 200 of our music folders in 2008 and built a really nice dual cabinet set which I saw when visiting - each of the 2 cabinets was on 4 wheels, and they had a hinge connecting them so they folded together into a closed box that could be locked.
As an alternative solution which might not be as expensive as the top-end solutions you can probably find easily on-line, try based in Illinois - these folks have a variety of systems that will hold our folders, and they provide other music storage solutions too.
Some day I hope to find or produce a good set of plans and clear instructions to post, for anyone to build their own music cabinets - if someone has that to share, here would be a good place to post it for the world...
Ian Bullen
on February 15, 2012 10:42am
The best advice I've received on this issue is to put a half-dozen or so "stations" around the rehearsal space for a group's folder storage. That way, dozens of kids are not vying for the same 2-foot square area at entry and exit times.
I use hanging-file crates which you can get at any big box store. They're especially cheap in the late summer during all the "back to college" sales.
on February 16, 2012 2:21pm
Hi Dan,
I also found myself in need of a folder storage system.  After several failed attempts at building one on my own, I decided to ask for help from several different sources.  These three were my best resources...

1.  Talk to the shop teacher at your school!  Sometimes there is scrap wood available, but if not, you could still purchase supplies and ask either the teacher or an ambitious student to help you out!  
2.  Talk to your custodial staff and see if anyone is willing to help you build something.  I drew a picture for our custodian to show what I was looking for, and he made a very sturdy music storage cabinet for me.  I baked him cookies once a month as a thank you!
3.  Ask your local lumber/building supply store to help you out, either with materials or actual labor.  I have contacted Home Depot and other local stores to ask donations for my classroom, such as carpet square samples to use for seating in my general music classes.  I wrote a letter requesting the needed materials and let the business know that I would thank them publicly for their donation(s) in our school newsletter, on printed programs at concerts, and through an announcement at concerts.  I asked local businesses to support the music program and asked parents/audience members to frequent the businesses that supported our students.  It was a win-win situation for all parties involved. 

Best wishes,

on February 16, 2012 4:43pm
Daniel:  This isn't really a school situation, but our community band, which cannot leave its music or equipment in the room where we rehearse and which often has runout performances, uses professional quality music folders and uses three fiber boxes to keep them in and to travel them in.  The boxes are labeled and in score order, and the folders are all numbered so it's easy to find your folder (if you remember your number!!!).  These are black fiber that is MUCH sturdier than the cardboard boxes others have mentioned, considerably more water resistant, and have metal-reinforced corners, and they stand up under a LOT of use and abuse.  (I do use those cardboard storage boxes, but I use them for storage, which is what they're designed for!)  They are also lighter weight than the plastic Rubbermaid-type boxes, which is nice since the music itslef is plenty heavy, and fiber boxes of this kind have been used to transport ensemble music around the world for many years.  I'm not sure what the company is, but I could find out.
Fixed or rolling folder racks are better in a school situation, of course, but as someone else mentioned having boxes in more than one location in the room would allow students not to bunch up all in one place.
All the best,
on February 18, 2012 7:09am
I agree that two or three rolling cabinets in different stations would work best in your situation.  Whenever I hear "we really can't afford..." I always wonder if some creative thinking and just a little fundraising might change that mindset.  Are you currently charging a lab fee?  With close to 200 students in your program, a $10 lab fee (with a waiver for financial hardship) would get you pretty close to the mark for buying a couple of these:  Also, what kinds of fundraiser concerts are you putting on? With that many students (and several hundred parents and grandparents) you could pretty easily take care of buying some high-quality cabinets in one evening, without having to charge a high ticket price. And also, with that many kids, surely there are a few dads with carpentry experience who might be willing to donate a Saturday to building something for you?
on February 18, 2012 8:26pm
Hi Dan -
Another option that we have used would be milk crates - about the right size for folders - they come in a variety of colors - and your noon lunch folks might be able to loan you a few! There were always several students who would make sure folders were in order as they were handed in at the end of rehearsal - future music librarians of the world!
Best wishes,
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