Monday, July 16, 2012

Organizing Your Classroom Library

Organizing your classroom library can be a daunting task - especially if you have a lot of books! I know many teachers who are continuously frustrated because books are never returned to their homes and can't be found when they are needed. I also know teachers who start the year organized and excited about their library, but find their system difficult to maintain. Luckily, the organization of my classroom library is one of the things I seemed to get right when I began teaching, so I thought it'd be an excellent place to start my sharing of ideas! 

First let me say that setting up this system did take time. I spent many hours the summer before my first year teaching cataloging books, labeling books, and organizing books. I am SO thankful that I spent that time, however, because my books stay organized, and I always know where to find them when a student has a request!

Hopefully, this blog will inspire you to get organized, too! 

1. Catalog Your Books

The first thing I did was make an Excel Spreadsheet listing all of my books in alphabetical order by author's last name. (Side Note: If I had been more Google Apps friendly when I began, I would have used Google Spreadsheet to do this. I love everything about Google Docs, and I highly recommend the tool!) In my spreadsheet I have listed the author, book title, and subject matter of each book. I also have listed the grade level appropriateness, how many copies of each book I have, and the name of the book bin the book will be organized in. I add to this list as I buy new books, and I don't put a book in my library unless I have first cataloged it! 

If you have a lot of books, this is going to be the most time consuming part of your organization, but it is crucial. When a student asks you for a specific book all you have to do is pull up your log, press "Control + F" on your keyboard, and search for the book! You then can check what bin it is located in and help your student find the book. I also love having the subject matter listed because it helps me find books I don't even remember I have. For example, I pull up my log and search for "World War II" when it's time to teach WWII, and every book I have on the subject comes up! What takes a while to do in the beginning becomes a huge time saver in the end!

Here is a screen shot of a portion of my book log...just click it to enlarge!

2. Label and Organize Your Books

You have to decide what categories of books you want to have in your classroom library. I use the following system: 

Each genre of book has a specific label. I used Dollar Store baskets to create bins for the genres. On each bin, I used laminated index cards and book rings to make a label. I put the sticker signifying the genre on each label, and then every book that goes in that bin will also have that sticker. At the beginning of the year I teach kids to match the sticker on the book to the sticker on the label of the bin! It works like a charm! Here are some pictures of my library to help you really see what it looks like!

Biography = red star     

These are any books that fall into the category of biography.

Non-Fiction = yellow star

These are any books that fall into the category of non-fiction. I also include autobiography here.

Fiction = green star

These are any books that fall into the category of fiction. I have more of these baskets that any other! (Side Note: If I have multiple books by one author, I organize those into an author study bin. If the fiction book is part of a series, I organize those into a series bin. Class sets and books considered to be classics are also in separate bins.)

Mystery = silver star

These are any books that fall into the category of mystery.

Poetry = yellow circle

These are any books that fall into the category of poetry. 

Historical Fiction = pink circle

These are books that fall into the category of historical fiction. 

Reference = green circle

These are books that are considered reference. I have separate bins for dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, etc. They all have the same green sticker, but their labels have different names. 

Books in a Series = orange rectangle

These are any books that are part of a series. All books in a series have an orange rectangle, but I differentiate the series by creating a special label for each series. For example, Harry Potter books are abbreviated with an HP. Each book in the series has an orange rectangle with an HP, and the bin for the series also has an orange label with an HP. 

Author Study = green rectangle

When I have multiple books by one author, I create author study bins. All author study books have a green rectangle, but I differentiate by creating a special label for each author. This special label is usually the author's initials. 

Classics = yellow rectangle

These are books that are considered classic literature. 

Classroom Sets = pink rectangle

When I have a classroom set of books, I keep them in a larger bin separate from my other books. I use pink rectangles on these books, but I number each book in the set. Because each student in my class has a number, numbering the books helps me keep track of them when we use them. Student number one receives book number one, etc. I always know which students have the missing books when we are done using them!

Here are some pictures of the complete library! (Please excuse the mess in the background! The library is just about the only thing ready in my room right now!)


 I keep my read aloud and picture books separate from the chapter books. They are organized by subject (Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and "Read Aloud" books (feel good books or books that don't otherwise have a specific subject correlation). I am lucky to have two tier shelving for each of these categories, so I keep my related professional texts on the top shelf, and the read alouds on the bottom shelf! The past couple of years I have left these shelves open, but this year I am going to make curtains to cover them up. I'll post pictures of those when they are done, but here is what they look like for now!

 Read Aloud = blue star


Well, that's it for my classroom library! I hope you found this helpful and are ready to get organized!

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