20 Minutes to an Organized Classroom Library

Five easy steps to organizing your classroom library

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Whether you've been amassing classroom library books for years or you are just starting out, these simple tips will get your library in tip-top shape in no time!

1. Assess the Mess
Take a quick inventory of the books you have in your library. Make three piles:

  • Display (keep out for students now)
  • Store (save for later in the year)
  • Give Away (donate or lend to colleagues).


2. Evaluate Your Space
Try to pick one spot that can fit your entire library, which will lead to fewer messes and lost books. Working with a small space? Think vertical, with shelving, hanging baskets, or tall, slim bookcases.


3. Mock Up a Checkout System
Ruler in hand, mark off seven columns on a large piece of unlined paper. Label them with student name, date, title, author, genre, bin name, and reading level. Later, input info into an Excel spreadsheet, where it can be easily sorted. It doubles as a library checkout list: Just plug in the borrower’s name and checkout date.


4. Label Wisely
Organize books by genre and reading level. Set up a color-coded system that matches genre to colored sticker. For example, Poetry: Purple; Nonfiction: Blue; Graphic Novels: Orange. Later, when you have time, devise a separate system that for reading levels (write levels on plain white stickers to avoid color confusion). Create a chart that identifies genres and colors, reading levels and numbers.


5. Choose Sturdy Storage
Try multipurpose bins or wicker baskets (both are resilient and attractive). Mark each bin with a genre word label (“Fantasy”) and the corresponding color (“Red”).


Good Bookkeeping Rules

  • Keep book spines turned out, so title and author are visible.
  • At the end of the day, have a couple of class helpers straighten and organize books.
  • Place your name on every book. Use an address label, bookplate, or personalized stamp.
  • Teach accountability and respect for property; books should be handled with care and returned on time to a designated bin.


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