Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bright Ideas: Taming the Classroom Library

I am thrilled to be apart of the Bright Ideas Link Up for April!
If you haven't have a chance to check one of these bad boys out, then now is the time! Up to 150 bloggers join together to share their best teaching ideas and tips. No sale pitches, no "follow" me requirements, just good honest idea sharing. WAHOO! Let's get started!

The idea that I want to share with you today is how to best organize and maintain your personal classroom library. As one who calls himself a book "hoarder", it can be difficult to maintain, organize, and keep track of large amounts of books. (This includes picture books to non-fiction!)

As a 6th grade teacher, I use picture books like crazy as mentor texts in writing, mini-lessons in reading, and to help make in point in science and math. So, with my collection of picture books, I had to find an easy way to organize them. After much discussion with my wife, we decided to alphabetize them and mark each letter of the alphabet with a red card as pictured below. It has worked out super-well!

When it comes to my regular library of fiction, this requires a whole NEW level of taming. It isn't as difficult as one might think. Let me tell you how I organize my books, and hopefully it will inspire YOU with an idea on how to best track and organize YOURS!

I have an old computer that I use in my library. I use software that our school provided, but a quick google search of FREE library software will provide you with lots of options.  I strongly encourage you to look around and find program or online organizer. If you can't find one, no worries- I didn't have one for the first several years of my teaching. I simply typed all my titles in Excel so that I had a record of my books. AND, I could search the spread sheet using the Crtl-F function and find the title I wanted. If you choose to use a program, be sure to get a bar code scanner. I got mine several years ago for $30.00. They make it much easier to enter your books.

Regardless of HOW you track them (and I strongly encourage you to do so!), it is very helpful when ordering new books, so you don't repeatedly order the same books!) So, let me tell you how I organize my books on my shelves! First, I start by taking my unleveled books! These are brand-new from my latest book order.

The first thing I do is write my name on the end of the book (or the class/school if the books belong to them). This ensures a couple of things- 1) it is easy to identify that it is my/classes book and 2) makes it nearly impossible for students to steal my books. My name on the front page can be easily ripped out.

When adding new books, I only write my name with a dash to start with. I will look up the level of each book later, and add that to the top next to my name.

Next, I add a bar code on the inside cover. If you are not using bar codes, you would skip this step. Don't feel overwhelmed. It took me a long time to get all my books into my program. Remember to use your volunteers or even some students can be trusted to enter information correctly. :)

To level a book, I use Scholastic's Book Wizard. All my books are leveled with the Guided Reading Levels (GRL). With my name and the level written on the top of the books, it is very simple to keep the books organized on my shelves.

So, when you look at my rather out of control collection, you can see that organizing is very important. Whether you have a LOT of books or just getting started, organizing your collection is vital. But, what about non-fiction you ask. Let's take a peek at that part of my collection.

I organize my non-fiction by topic. I do NOT level my non-fiction, and it is not allowed to leave my classroom. In fact, students can not check it out to themselves, but are free to read it at their desk, during recess, or any other time as needed. It has worked wonderfully and the students enjoy sharing all the popular books because they can't "lose" them in their desks.

I have found a very simple way to keep topics organized. I bought colored dots at an office supply store. I started by sticking one on the topic label as show below:

Then, any book on that topic also receives the same colored dot as shown:

I have continued to label all the books in my library in the same manner.

The rest of my non-fiction library is organized by topic in tubs. This keeps the covers facing out so the students are exposed to the intriguing and inviting covers! LOVE LOVE LOVE!

I hope that you are feeling inspired in SOME fashion to work on taming that classroom library you have! Here's to adding many more exciting titles to inspire those young minds you work with!

Mr. Hughes

This is just ONE of 150 BRIGHT IDEAS! Check out many more in the link up below! WAHOO!


  1. An awesomely effective idea! Having seen it work in person, I highly recommend it! :)

  2. You might try my Classroom Library Book Retriever app, it does everything automatically! No scanner or labels needed!

    1. Thanks for the info. I did read the reviews and it appears that there are still some problems with the app. My system is a bit of work, but I LOVE the control that I have and the fact that I don't have to wait for a database to update! :) Have a great day Ben, and again, thanks for your suggestion.

  3. Wow you have a huge library! Thanks for sharing your idea. I need to get better at labeling my books. In second grade, my students never took my books home. Now that I am in fifth, I let them but I have no system for keeping track of them. I'm pretty sure I've lost all of my Diary of a Wimpy Kid books!

    Sara :)
    The Colorful Apple

    1. Hey Sara-
      Thanks for your comments. I agree that the library situation can get out of control in a hurry! I hope that feel inspired to get started (AND, that you find your Wimpy Kid books- they are expensive!)

  4. Hi!
    I also teach middle school and have a HUGE classroom library. I have found a scanner, but am unsure how to get the bar code labels for the books. Where did you purchase them or did you create them in Excel? Thanks!
    Holly Rivers

    1. Howdy Holly!
      Thanks for your question! I use Wasp Barcoding Software. Our school has it installed for the school library, and I printed my labels with it. It is a bit pricey, but super awesome software and can be used for a LOT of different projects, etc. Here is link to the site and program I use:
      I hope it helps. We huge library owners have to stick together!!
      Let me know if you have any more questions-

      P.S. One tip I will give is when you print, print 3-5,000 labels as they are consecutive and trying to print more is a pain! I printed 5,000 labels when I started and still have quite a few to last me!

  5. Thanks for your suggestions. I am obsessed with books and my classroom library shows it. I recommend to use a free online resource to organize your books and allow students to check them out.


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