Classroom Library: Student Materials Series Pt. 4

The classroom library is one of the key parts of an elementary classroom. As Debbie Diller would advise, this should be one of the main focal points in your room and something your kids see as soon as they walk through the door. I concur!

Classroom Library: Student Materials- How to organize and manage a classroom library.

The classroom library should be full of books of all levels, genres, even other languages. I have also been following a blogger a lot lately who emphasizes putting diverse books in your library to give students an awareness of people different from than what they are used to- to make our students more culturally diverse. I think this is also really important.

This week I wanted to write about ways to organize and set up your classroom library so that it is easy for the students to access, pleasing to the eye, and ultimately- it entices your little readers to devour books on books on books!

Let’s Get Started!

Before we get started though, I want you to know that I am writing this post and it is currently 5:29 in the morning. I have already consumed one cup of coffee and it has basically proven useless. My eyes are so heavy and I really could just crawl back into bed. God help my second grade babies today, cause I know I can’t! So if anything in this post seems a bit off or doesn’t quite make sense. Please forgive me! 🙂

But, before you can create a warm and cozy library environment, you need some books! And you are a teacher, so you probably don’t have a ton of money to get books. Did you know that Half Price books will give BOXES of books to first year teachers? Probably to any teacher that walks in and says they need some books, for that matter! They gave me like four boxes of books my first year of teaching. I had to weed through them and pick out the ones I wanted, but it was way better than buying. I also got almost the entire Harry Potter series FO FREE!

Classroom Library: Student Materials- How to organize and manage a classroom library.

All the books I got from HPB

Garage Sales and online sale groups are also a good place to snag up a bunch of books for a cheap price. Know of any teachers leaving or retiring? No one should hoard hundreds of books in their garage for the sake of “just in case”(cause that’s not very organized, ya know ;). Take those books off their hands!

Organizing the Library

When I began teaching I was given a ton of books from a mentor and also got a collection from HPB (as mentioned above). It was really overwhelming but, also really exciting for my super OCD, anal retentive, organizing brain. In “My First Post…EVER!!!” I write (well actually I think just mainly show pictures) about how I organized my books into sections.

Classroom Library: Student Materials- How to organize and manage a classroom library.

(My first classroom library!)

As a new teacher, I would recommend that (you organizing your own books). It helped me to get familiar with my books and organize them in a way that made sense to me. I was able to see what categories I wanted in my library.

As a teacher who has been teaching for a few years and already has that under her belt, I think allowing your students to organize the classroom library is a really good experience for them!

I did this for the first time this year. I definitely had some learning curves. It did not go quite as well as I had planned. So for next year, I have some improvements

Student Library Organization Session

Classroom Library: Student Materials- How to organize and manage a classroom library.

Maintaining Classroom Library Organization

After you your kids spent all that time getting the books organized just right, you want to keep it that way! Well, I will just go ahead and burst your bubble now. No matter how hard you work to create an effective way to turn in books, organize books, keep them in the write category, it won’t be fool kid proof.  It is inevitable that you will find a non-fiction book about lions in the poetry section.

I have tried different methods of keeping books organized- giving students clips with their number on it to clip onto the bin they take a book out of, scanning books into an online system to check books in and out. I have teacher friends who have tried using the colored dots to put on the back of books that all go in one section. Other teachers have tried putting those little book check out things inside the front cover of the book (ya know, the ones that used to be in library books a long time ago before I was even really checking out books at a library).

Really I think it’s all a waste of time. At the end of the day, the kids are going to put the books back wherever their little hearts desire. That’s why involving them in the organization process is so beneficial.

One of my classroom jobs is the “Librarian.” His or her job at the end of each day is to check the library to ensure that it looks nice and clean as well as skim through the bins and fix any books that are not put back correctly.

Creating a Welcoming Environment

As I mentioned at the beginning, the classroom library needs to be a focal point and a place the kids WANT to come to! I do this by making it visually appealing to the eye. When I walk into teachers classrooms and see books thrown in boxes, different colored/sized boxes, it is overwhelming and uninviting. I use these bins from ReallyGoodStuff.com to create a cohesive look.

Classroom Library: Student Materials- How to organize and manage a classroom library.

In years past I have created a “library nook” in my room, which I LOVED! But, it took up too much space. Debbie Diller’s voice is always ringing in my ear “everything up against a wall.” I definitely agree with her on that point. Once I moved my library up against my wall, I felt my room really open up. However, if you are going to have items in your class protrude out from the wall, I think the library is the one place you can do it.

Classroom Library: Student Materials- How to organize and manage a classroom library.

Another photo of my first library. You can see how I created a wall with the bookshelves. I loved this little library. Also, these pictures were taken in 2012 with my iPhone 4 and the picture quality SUCKS!

Classroom Library: Student Materials- How to organize and manage a classroom library.

I love the way this teacher set up her library. It looks and feels like a mini school library with “featured books” sitting up top and the cozy little nook with a carpet in the middle.

Other Tips

It is important to separate your library into fiction and non-fiction sections. I have two bookshelves in my room that house all my picture books. The bookshelf on the left is non-fiction books. The bookshelf on the right is fiction. I label them so that the kids can easily see which section is which.

Classroom Library: Student Materials- How to organize and manage a classroom library.

I also have the top row of bins separated into levels. This way kids can get books specifically on their level. I am not super hardcore about making them get leveled books because I give them their leveled book from our guided reading lessons when we are done with them. I want them to have some freedom and ownership in the books they read.

Classroom Library: Student Materials- How to organize and manage a classroom library.

Chapter books are in a smaller bookshelf and organized alphabetically. The top row is popular series (Goosebumps, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Minecraft, etc.). But the bottom two shelves grouped by alpha last name. I got paint sticks from Lowes, painted them, and wrote each letter of the alphabet on there.

Classroom Library: Student Materials- How to organize and manage a classroom library.

Years ago I tried organizing alphabetically with no separation at that was really just a big fat joke. I gave up on that pretty quickly. Also, in full disclosure, I went to take a picture of the chapter book section of my library so I wanted to make sure things looked okay…Well….I guess I forgot to explain how the check out system works in this section of the library because the blue alphabet sticks weren’t even in alpha order…. *shaking my head*

(See, isn’t this nice to see the teacher who has a website on classroom organization can sometimes be a bit unorganized!?!?)


Wanna know the best part about my library? I got my bookshelves from IKEA, so that meant they had to be built. My momma and sister built all of them. I didn’t do a thing. That is a win!

What are ways you organize your classroom library? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Until next time,

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