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Classroom Library Organization

Compiled By: luv2teach77

Organizing a classroom library can be a daunting task. Here's a collection of tips/suggestions to help get your classroom books organized.

Classroom Library
Posted by: Erin

Every year, I have the students sort the books. They sort them in any way that they deem purposeful. With my first graders, we had categories like true animal books, animal stories, fact books, community helpers, ABC books, 123 books, fairy tales, Clifford, Amelia Bedelia, etc. We had about 15 to 20 categories. I labeled the categories just what they decided. Then we put a sticker on each books to show the category. (ie purple smiley face for true animal books, green for community helpers). This helped the students put the books back in the right place. During the school year when I got new books we would add the books to the categories we already had. The students as they learned more about genre and books changed the names of some of the categories, for example the true books about animals basket became expository animal books (non-fiction). By the end of the year our classroom library was awesome. Because the students helped with classifiction and organization of the library they took wonderful care of the books and the library. I have over 350 personal books, which were all in our library all year. They were read everyday. I only had to repair one book. They are stil all in excellent condition. My students would get every upset if someone from another classroom would take a book and not put it away in the right place. This was a very young first grade so I would think that almost any grade could do this. Good Luck!

organizing classroom books
Posted by: Joanne

I keep my books in baskets labeled easy, medium, hard, chapter books, looking books(which are joke books, puzzlemania books, highlights,literary magazines, picture books), AR books. I explain this to them at the beginning of the year by using a bike riding analogy- Sometimes we want to go fast (so they might select an easy book, or a looking book) sometimes we ride up a small hill (medium books or easy chapter books) and sometimes we really want a challenge and go up a big hill (they choose a hard book or a longer chapter book). They really like this analogy. I also have a "special book basket" that I change monthly. This would be any holiday books, author study books, or anything related to what we are studying in science or social studies. After many years of trying different things, this has worked the best for me.

Library Organization
Posted by: Gloria

After my first year of teaching, I had about 200 books not returned to my personal library so I spent the summer making each book a library book. From the teacher's store, I bought small library envelopes and check out cards (I had a parent who helped me to do this). Each book was checked out with a name. I also had a special box that all books needed to be returned in. I checked them in with my initials or a parents initials. In the beginning of the year, I send home a letter to the parents stating that if their child would like to use my library, they were allowed to. However, any book not returned or ruined would need to be replaced for $5.00 for paperbacks or $10.00 for hardbacks or they could buy a new book. The thing that made this happen is that I would not sign their final report card until the books were returned or paid for. Also, if they returned them the next year, I would refund their money. I wanted the books, not the money. I also kept all of the cards in an index box and went through them monthly to remind the kids who had outstanding books. Also, I would put sticky notes on the cards to list when reminders were given or who wnated to check the book out next. Letters were sent out quarterly to let the parents know what books their child had of mine. It works great. A lot of time in the beginning but very little time for upkeep.

library organization
Posted by: fiona

First, thanks to all who have replied to this question- I am in the process of organizing my library (again) and am finding some helpful hints. I have organized my books as many of you are in bins by type fairy tales, mysteries, by author etc.. To facilitate the children putting them back in the right spot (a very bif case of wishful thinking!) I have purchased icon stickers from the DEMCO catalog that our school librarian purchases her icons from. This catolog has all of the library materials(pockets etc..) you need. You can look online at the catalog, but all of the icons I purchased are not pictured on their site. These are the labels that go on the spines of books with pictures- ex: the biography sticker has a siouhette of Abe Lincoln. This has cost me about $60.00 for about 20 categories and enought larger clear labels to cover the icons to insure their staying on (as recommended by our librarian)THis would label hundreds of books. Each bin has a name for the type of book inside and the corresponding icon sticker. I have a parent volunteer who comes and chips away at this task for a half hour or so once a week. I am labeling new books as I purchase them before they are put in bins. I know the time and money will be well spent in the long run in saving me time organizing those bins each year (and week!) Eventually, I hope I have parent volunteers who will create a database and a checkout system as I have read about hear. We all spend sooooo much of our own money on books, it is well worth it to allow access and enjoyment for all.

My library...
Posted by: Laura

I will be a first year 4th grade next year and I spent about a week organizing my library. I have accumulated well over 500 books for my classroom library. My school does AR, but I am not so lucky to have the library buy those cute AR stickers.

So, what I did was go to my local Family Dollar store and they sell incentive stickers. From the front, they look like larger stickers but inside each pack are a ton of small incentive stickers. I think there are 500 stickers for $1. Then I broke up the levels into ranges, say 4.0-4.5 would be a purple star. Then I just went through each book and labeled them on the bottom of the spine. I also bought clear address label and put these over the small sticker. This way (hopefully) they will never come off.

THen I wrote the title of each book on an index card (pretty large). I also wrote the books author and the AR level and points for the test. I alphabetized all the cards and put them in index card boxes. I will use library card holders on a piece of poster board to keep track of my books. When a students takes a book, they must remove the card from the box and put it into their corresponding #ed slot. Each student is assigned a # at the beginning of the year.

When I shelve the books, I am going to try and group them by levels I think. My students take the STAR test, so they will know at the beginning where they can start choosing books from. I am also going to group sets of books like the Fudge books, Bailey Street Kids, Boxcar Children, BSC, etc. Like Sandy H said, I am also going to put my non-AR books on a seperate shelf.

I hope all of this made sense. Like I said, this will be my first year, but I feel really confident that my library system will work well!
Email if you need to know specifics.


I agree... simple is best.
Posted by: iluv3rd

Books kept at school are stored in individual book boxes. We practice how to return books to the right basket or put in the "I don't know where this book goes" basket if unsure. I've used paint stirrers and large "library" cards to mark spots in baskets but found this didn't help much.

My kids are required (by me) to take a book home each night. They slip their take home books in a pocket of large pocket chart (27 spots with a place to label each slot). They get their books from the chart at the end of each day. In the morning, they return the book to their slot. If they forget their book, they turn the label on their pocket so their number doesn't show. I can tell at a glance who still has a book at home. These kids aren't allowed to take home another book till the first one is returned. This system is simple yet lets the kids know they are repsonsible to return take home books. Each child and family signs the attached contract after we establish the expectations of taking books home. We celebrate the privilege! Like other posters, I figure "lost" books are hopefully bringing the joy of reading to others.

I try to write my name on the top page edges of a closed book. This is impossible to erase and makes it easy to tell who the book belongs to. This only works with longer books. Otherwise I stamp my name inside.

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Library Organization
Posted by: JLH

I have fought with this myself, and just spent a lot of time organizing my classroom library, too. I don't know if this is what you are looking for, but here's what I did. I divided all my books up by category (dinosaur books, favorite authors, Magic Tree House books, etc). I bought plastic baskets ($1.00/2 at local dollar store) and put the books in the baskets. I made up labels on my computer stating what kind of books each basket holds. I like to rotate my books, so those that are not being put out right away I put into large, labeled envelopes and stored in a big bin. They will be easy to exchange when I'm ready to rotate. While I was doing this I also leveled and coded some of the books so that I can steer the kids towards some "just right" books. These are just mixed in with the other books, but they have a color coded sticker. To try to keep the baskets organized, I'm making a clothespin for each student with his/her name on it. They just clip the clothespin to the basket they are borrowing a book from. This took me about 3 evening to do, but it's definitely worth the time. Good luck!

Re: organizing classroom library
Posted by: dolmansaxlil

I teach 8th, but I've done a lot of reading about how to set up classroom libraries (my library is a bit of an obsession). One of the things that I read really hit home with me. Bookstores such as B&N and Borders pay marketing and research types to figure out how to get people to buy books. I worked at a similar store here and Canada, and it's amazing how much psychology went into it. The book I read talked about going into those large bookstores and seeing how they are laid out, and then using those ideas in your classroom. Since I worked in one (and did merchandising for them for a time) I came up with my own list of things bookstores do that successfully get people's cash out of their pockets:

Have displays with front facing books
Group books by subject
Organize them well so they are easy to find
Have tables/end caps of books that are related (author, subject, current event)
Change displays often, but leave the basic organizational structure alone

So, using those 5 cardinal rules of book selling, here's what I do:

Most of my general fiction (and some of the genre stuff that doesn't fit elsewhere, due to space or topic) is on a bookshelf, organized alpha by author. You could organize by reading level as well if you feel that's important, but then I would organize alpha by author within that. I do it strictly alpha by author, and then mark the reading levels on the books themselves. I don't care if a kid attempts a book that is too difficult if they're truly interested, because most of them will get through a tough book if they have chosen it because it grabs their attention.

I have several other larger shelves where I have book baskets. These are very prominately labelled and organized by genre or subject or author or series. Basically, whatever I have a lot of or what I see the kids are interested in. A lot of my students are into reading books about war, so I have a World War bin. I have a huge group of girls that are into horse books, so I have a Horse bin. Then the standard Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, etc, as well as some author and series books.

On top of those larger shelves, I have a long counter. I have some books on display here - usually a couple of bins of a subject that is popular or current (at the start of the year, I have a "School Stories" bin. The next one I'll do is "At the Movies" with novels that have been made into films. Even though those books are in the normal library, the number of kids who pick them up increases when you group them and display them like that.

I also have a "New Releases" bin that sits on top with any new titles I've recently purchased.

Sometimes (not always!) I have a bin out just called "Great Reads!" and I put random books that I know are good, but that aren't getting a lot of attention in my room. As soon as they are called "great" the kids pick them up.

When I do subject bins, I mix fiction and non-fiction. So my World Wars bin has very fictional war stories, along with a biography of Ann Frank and a book about Military Uniforms.

I'll sometimes put a single book on display with a sign with a quick blurb about it that a student has written. "Bobby recommends...." The kids like to see their names there (yes, even in grade 8!) and it's a good use of peer pressure!

My binned books are spine up, and my bookshelf is just a normal bookshelf - but the bins on top have the cover facing forward. So even if there is a number of books in the bin, I face everything forward, stick the most appealing looking one at the front, and kids flip through them.

The last thing I do isn't covered in the rules above (though publishers certainly do this!) but if I get a copy of a book with a shiny new cover (rereleases), even if I have very old copies of the book on the shelf, I display the new cover. Kids clamour to read it - then I pull out the older edition for anyone who is interested after the new one is taken.

Just my opinions from my experiences in the book world. :p

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Shipping Labels
Posted by: RKM

I organized my library this summer also in bins. I used the big shipping labels and printed the category on the label with a picture and stuck it on the bin. So, for my Arthur books - it has a picture of Arthur and says "Arthur Books" on the label. I am attaching an example.

The shipping labels are Avery #5164 - the size is 3 1/3" x 4".

Good luck!
RKM :s)

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book organization
Posted by: j

I have a system that works well for me. First, my wonderful hubby made me a huge shelving unit that spans the back wall of my garage at home. (Space wont allow for me to keep them at school , plus I want them at home for my own kids to enjoy!) I organized my books by themes I teach ie.. dinosaurs,seasons, colors,transportation or type of book ie.. alphabet books, number books, wordless picture books.. Some by author if the book didn't have a home in any of my other categories ie.. Dr. Suess books, Eric Carle books.. I divide them in the bookcase using file folders as spacers. I write the category on the tab and then place all of the books behind that folder. It has been a great system for me. Each week, i just pull the section of books I need, leaving the folder in place to mark its place for easy return. If a book qualifies for two categories, I just put a note inside the folder of one category stating where the book is shelved. Hope this is helpful..

About stealing.. I write my name in EVERTHING! And let parents know if things are missing. This mostly hppens with homework books.. the ones they are supposed to read at home and bring back the next day. Those who don't bring back, don't get a new book and parents are notified so they knowI know who has it at home. Unfortunately, I still find it happening. If only we could make them financially responsible for misplaced, stolen or damaged items!

Book Codes
Posted by: popcorn

I have three different codes on each book--the one at the bottom of the spine has a color dot to indicate it is from my classroom, one at the top indicates the genre or unit/theme collection, and one on the back cover that indicates the Fountas and Pinnell level. My baskets are labeled variously for favorites such as Henry and Mudge, Horrible Harry, etc, authors, unit collections, biography, general fiction for picture books leveled, science, general nonfiction, animal nonfiction, poetry, reference, in addition to the F and P levels.

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I have LOTS of books...
Posted by: iluv3rd

So many that I keep 3-4 cartons full at home because they are inappropriate for my current grade level (3)... either too easy or too grown up.

My fiction books are in baskets with labels as mentioned above... some by series, author, content, genre (i.e. Girls as Main Characters, Books About School, mysteries, poetry, tall tales, historical fiction, classics, books for partners (at least 2 copies of each title), etc. My non-fiction library is by subject. I also have magazines and picture books. The picture books are mostly separated by subject (books with animals as main characters, holidays, etc.).

I spend a lot of time putting colored stickers on many of my books last year when my students just couldn't select good fit books on their own. Only a few beginning chapter books are actually separated into baskets by level. Otherwise, the leveled books are mixed in with the other baskets. That way kids can find a basket they like (by subjet or author) and find a variety of book levels within. I do level any new books I get with stickers because it's manageable. It depends on the student if I direct them to use the stickers to guide book choice (most of this year's kids don't need the stickers because they choose well on their own).

I'll attach a couple of pictures from our grand opening early in the year. This was before some labels were on baskets (the kids helped with this). I know I have pictures of the fiction books (but am not sure if I have the picture books or non-fiction as they are housed in a different area of the classroom). The main library is in a large nook in the room and you can't see our couch.

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book baskets
Posted by: Jen

I organize my books into 6 baskets by readability level. Each basket has a picture on the front (apple, leaf, pumpkin, snowman, heart, and hot air balloon). These pictures represent months of the school year (apple=Sept.; snowman=Jan. etc.) The easiest books go in the apple basket and get progressively harder with the most difficult books in the hot air balloon basket. I organize them using pictures instead of letters or numbers because the kids can't make fun of others for reading on a lower level. On the inside cover of each book, I put a sticker to match the picture on the front of the basket.(the small stickers used for incentive charts work well and they are pretty cheap) Then the students can place the books back in the right basket and you don't have to spend time reorganizing. I hope I explained it in enough detail. Feel free to email me if you have any other questions. Good luck!

Book Categories
Posted by: Jaela

I have my books in baskets according to some of the following categories in my second grade:

Chapter Books
Seasons and Holidays
Animal Books (Fiction)
Animal Books (Non-Fiction)
Places and Cultures
Misc. Fiction
Misc. Non-Fiction
and Favorites. This is where I put my books that I love to read aloud. This is probably the most popular of all my baskets! My kids love rereading books that I read aloud!

PS- A tip that I learned on this site last year that has really helped with management...

I put each child's name on a clothespin Put all their clothespins in a basket. When my kids picked a book, they left their pin on the basket. When they go to return their book, if they've forgotten what basket the book was in, they just look for the pin! It really works!

Hope this helps!=)