An Organized Classroom Library is a Teacher’s Dream
But how do you go about getting your library organized? Today I’m sharing with you what works in my own classroom. I encourage you to spend time reflecting on what you want your own classroom library to look like and how your students will be using it. This is the step that makes organization work.
Currently I am using almost the same system of organization I used my first years of teaching. It has always worked well for me so I decided I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. Plus, I am not a big fan of changing things up in my classroom all the time. I think because I spend so much time reflecting and hemming and hawing over my choices in the first place that the idea of changing it is too much effort!
Search Pinterest to Get Some Classroom Library Organization Ideas
Using Pinterest is a wonderful way to ooh and ah over some beautifully organized classroom library pictures. It’s one of my favorite ways to get new classroom ideas and just be inspired. My favorite classroom libraries are ones that are simple and inviting.
I am always envious of teachers with bright white shelves and matching book bins. This however is not my current reality. As a single mom I just can’t justify the added expense of purchasing multiple sets of bookcases for my classroom when the school provided ones (while ugly) work. Not to say that anything is wrong with teachers who chose to spend their money this way. Over the years in my teaching career I have spent so much of my own money on classroom in supplies and decorations.
If you are like me, you can still have a beautiful library space without spending a lot of money.
Choose Your Organization Method
After you’ve searched for some great inspiration using your friend Google, it’s time to begin reflecting on how you envision your library being used. My class library is organized by genre and topics. Many of the topics also fit into a genre category. For example, books about plants are labeled plants with the subtitle of non-fiction.
My first few years of teaching I organized primarily by topics like animals and sports. This was when I taught first grade. After moving to second grade, I decided it was important to begin frontloading their knowledge of genres and moved to having genre labels.
Now my library is predominantly organized into fiction and non-fiction. I took this a step further and placed all my fiction books into colorful bins that I had purchased many years ago from a dollar store. My non-fiction books are in clear plastic shoe boxes I’ve also purchased from dollar stores, Walmart, and Target. I really liked the idea of having separate styles of bins for fiction versus non-fiction but I also didn’t have enough colorful bins for my whole library. It ended up becoming a happy accident that I needed to mix and match.
Because second graders are still getting used to the idea of genres and figuring out which books belong where, I also have several bins dedicated to our favorite topics. Here you will find bins for class favorites, favorite authors such as Mo Willems and Dr. Seuss, and bins for author series.
Decide How Students Will Browse and Borrow Books
Now that you have organized your classroom library in some way, it’s time to think about how students will be using the library. Where will you place your library to show it is important in the classroom? I’ve seen several teachers who have placed their library to frame their teaching area with the shelves along the edges of a beautiful, large classroom rug.
Personally, I have a very small classroom with no room to have a designated teaching spot. This means my library is placed along the wall but with the shelves parallel to each other to carve out a cozy niche. When it was safe to do so, I placed two very inexpensive bathroom rugs inside and a variety of large pillows to lounge on. Students loved this space even though it only comfortably fits at most three students at a time.
Since I am quite particular with how my books are treated and cared for, no one is allowed to “check out” books from the library until we’ve had several lessons taken from the Daily Five about book rules. Then students are allowed to freely browse and read books during center rotations but I ask that the books are returned at the end of the rotation. Many books suffer damage when students shove them inside desks or take them home. Now I know this idea may be highly polarizing but I’m being honest.
My students also have a book bag (a large plastic bag) that holds leveled books and keep at their desks throughout the week. Students also get to check out books weekly from the school library. Most of my classroom library books are picture books and easy readers that do not take a long time to read through.
Have a Consistent Checkout System for Books
When students visit the classroom library on their center rotation, there are a small amount of long laminated bookmarks. The idea of these bookmarks came from the school librarian at my first teaching job. She gave each student in the library a paint stick that they placed on the bookshelf in place of the book they removed. Then students could easily put the book back where the paint stick was without messing up the library organization too much.
I adopted this same idea with two pieces of colored paper that I cut, glued together, then laminated. The bookmarks are long enough to stick out from the book bins so students can see where they were browsing and place the book back correctly. Recently I added matching stickers to the front covers of my books that match the book bin labels. Students no longer need the bookmarks to hold their place when looking at books. They just simply match the sticker to the bin picture. Now I just have to get students to put the books facing the same direction!
If you decide to label just the spines of your books and do away with the book bins, you may wish to have a paint stick or bookmark to hold a student’s place when they are getting a book. This just takes putting back the book that much easier. After a few months you could even gradually release the use of the bookmarks to get students to focus on how the classroom library is organized.
Do You Need To Track Which Student Has Checked Out Which Book?
If you plan for students to have the books from your classroom library for several days, you may need to come up with a tracking system. An oldie but goodie is to place library pockets and a card inside each book and have students sign their name and date on the card. This can be time consuming if you have a lot of books to keep track of and sometimes the cards fall out or become misplaced.
Another way to track books is to have a binder with a simple table (much like a bathroom sign out sheet) that students can write the title of the book, their name, and the date borrowed. If you are teaching early elementary, this can be a little challenging at first. The easiest idea I have seen is by Courtney of Teaching in Paradise who simply snaps a picture on her phone of the student holding up the book or books they wish to borrow. Then you just delete the picture when they’ve returned the books.