Thursday, June 14, 2018

Classroom Library Organization

Do you need some ideas for your classroom library organization? Here are 5 tips to help you set up a system that will be easy for you to manage and the students will enjoy!

1. Books, Books, Books - Where do I get them?

Scholastic Book Club

First things need books for your classroom library.  And you need lots of them! So where do you start?

One of the best things you can do is send home monthly Scholastic Book Orders with your students.  It's a great way for kids to get books of their own that are high quality and inexpensive.  Parents love to buy books for their kids, especially for holidays, and when you send these order forms home you make it convenient for them to shop.

But the best part for you? When students order books, you earn bonus points that can be used to get free books for your classroom.  I have a classroom library with hundreds of books and most of them were earned with Scholastic Bonus points! It's totally free for teachers to sign up, so get on over there and make an account!

Garage Sales and Thrift Stores

Garage sales and thrift stores are another great place to buy bargain books for a fraction of the original cost.  Summer is a great time to get out and hunt for these bargains.  You can often find great books for your library for only .25 each!


Don't underestimate the power of asking for donations.  Send a letter home to parents or even make a Facebook post.  Often times, people have children's books laying around that are no longer being used after kids grow up.  They would love to donate them to your classroom and know that they are being put to good use!

2. How do I store all of these books?

Ok, you've got your what do you do with all of them?  You will definitely need some bookshelves and plastic bins to store your books.  While you're out there hunting for books at garage sales...keep your eye out for some old books shelves.  Remember, a can of spray paint can make even the oldest, dingiest shelf look clean and refreshed!

The best place I've found for plastic storage bins is your local Dollar Tree or every teachers favorite store, Target! Dollar stores have the perfect size plastic tubs in bright colors that are great for your library storage and the best part? They are only $1 each! Which is great, because you are going to need a lot of them once you get that library built up!

3. How do I arrange the books in my library?

Now you have your books and the boxes.....but how should you arrange them? There are lots of ways that you can do this. Some of the more popular ways to sort books in an elementary classroom are by genre, level, author and holiday.  And the good news can do all four if you want to! 

I really feel that the classroom library should be a focal point of any classroom. This is the place where children will go to relax and read with a friend or by themselves.  This is where they will look for a book when they are doing research for a report.  This is also where they will get books to fill their own personal book boxes as well.  They may even check books out of your library to read at home.

For this reason, you will need to give your library some space in your classroom.  I have two large bookshelves in my classroom that sit in an L shape and my books are sorted in several ways.  I have one section that is sorted by our favorite authors.  Another area is sorted by genre and a large portion of my library is devoted to books that are sorted by level.  I keep my holiday books in a file cabinet and bring those out each month in a special basket, which we'll talk about in a few paragraphs.  

4. How do I keep my library organized?

Label Your Books

You may be thinking, that's a lot of books! How can I make sure that the students keep them organized? 

The best thing I have found is to label every book in your library.  Now that may seem like a daunting task, but once you have them all sorted by genre, author, level, etc and in their separate book boxes, it's pretty easy to flip through the books and label them.  

I have seen people label their books in different ways.  Some people will simply write with marker on the cover of the book.  Others will use some colored sticker dots on the covers.  This is what I did when I first started my library.  But I soon had too many books and not enough colors of dots to suit my needs! 

The best thing that I have found is to use address size labels with all of the various holidays, genres, authors, etc preprinted on the label.  I simply print out a sheet of these labels and stick them on the top front corner of each book.  I like to put my labels on the front of my books so that when students are flipping through the bins they can easily see if a book is in the correct box, and replace it if needed.  

You can grab your book labels here.  This HUGE FREEBIE  includes over 70 pages of labels.....pretty much everything I could think of for an elementary classroom library!

Create Library Rules

One of the first centers I like to open at the beginning of the year is our classroom library.  But in order to do that, we need to establish some ground rules.  The last thing you want are your books destroyed or so mixed up that you can't find anything!

Some of our library rules are:

1. Only take one book out at a time.
2. Keep all the books facing forward in the box.
3. All books must go back where you got it from.
4. Handle books with care.
5. If you find a damaged book, put it in the Book Hospital. (the Book Hospital is a special basket that sits at the library and it is devoted to damaged books.  Once a week or so, I will check the Book Hospital to see if I need to repair any books and then put them back in circulation)

Create A Check Out System

Are you planning on letting students take books home? If so, you may want to consider creating a check out system.  One way of doing this is the old fashioned (but still works great) library pocket in the back of the book.  You can buy self adhesive library pockets to put in each book. Simply write the name of the book on an index card and put it in the pocket in the back of the book. 

Create a bulletin board with another pocket for each student.  When students want to check out a book, they simply take the card out of the back of their book and put it in their own pocket on the bulletin board. This way, you know exactly who has each of your books.  It's a simple system and one that is easy to maintain.  

5. How do I encourage students to use our library?

You've put all this work into your library, the last thing you want is it to sit idle with nobody using it! So how do you keep the kids coming back to the library all year? 

Make It Inviting

Make your library a cozy place where kids will want to visit.  Add some comfy chairs or cushions and maybe even some stuffed animals.  We call these our reading buddies and kids can read a story to a stuffed animal.  How about adding some soft lighting with a cute lamp? I found all of these items at a garage sale one summer for just a few dollars!

Rotate Your Books

Some of the books in your library will stay there all year, such as your leveled books.  But others can be rotated in and out of your library to add interest.  I like to bring my holiday books out at the beginning of each month.  We put them in a special box to make it interesting. In October, I put my Halloween books in a cauldron and add some witches fingers as pointers.  The kids love that! 

Another idea is to have an author showcase.  Each month you can showcase a different author.  Maybe have a special bulletin board with the author's picture and some of his/her books.  You could even read a book to the class each day to spark interest in this author. 

Add Fun Stuff

Another way to keep your classroom library fresh and inviting is to add fun stuff to your library.  Fun pointers and crazy glasses or hats are a fun addition to any library and make the students want to spend time there!

So now you have lots of ideas to get your classroom library up and running! You can take a look at how I run all of my other centers here. If you have other tips that teachers might like, please leave them in the comments below.