BLOGS  >  JUNE 24, 2021

How to Organize Your Secondary Classroom Library


So you did it. You hit the thrift stores, the rummage sales, the library book sales, and your friends’ bookshelves. You’ve got the best of YA, some classics, some graphic novels, even a mystery or ten. You’re experimenting with First Chapter Fridays, independent reading time in class, and how the heck to assess this lifelong skill you’re trying to help your students build.

But you’ve noticed your beautiful new library doesn’t organize itself. Sadly.

Don’t worry. There are plenty of easy ways to organize and keep track of all those great books and keep them on the go to your students.

Let’s start with how to organize them. There are plenty of options. Just keep this one key principle in mind: students are more likely to read if they can easily put their hands on an appealing book.

#1 Organize by Genre  

This seems to be the most popular choice. It’s easy, it works, and students can find the types of books they love without any trouble. Unless your library is huge, it also eliminates the need for alphabetizing and makes re-shelving returns a quick job. Just create bright, easy-to-read labels for poetry, fantasy, dystopia, YA, thrillers, romance, graphic novels, travel, memoir, nonfiction, etc. to spread them across your shelves.

#2 Themed Shelves  

If you’re attached to the alphabetical system (sure, it has stood the test of time), go for it! But let me suggest that you pull some books out for at least three themed shelves. Let the full library dominate the base of your library, but give yourself room at the top for shelves like “Student Favorites,” “The Best of Fantasy,” “Impossible Not to Finish in One Day,” “School Stories,” “Banned Books,” etc. – whatever you think will be most popular with your students. You’ll notice changing these shelves up now and then will hook your readers back to the library if it has become old news.

#3 Facing Out  

In my dream world, an entire wall of every classroom would be covered with those gallery shelves everyone is always DIY-ing for the books in their toddlers’ rooms. Perhaps the easiest way to organize your books, if you don’t have too many, is to face them all out so students can easily peruse and choose. If that feels a bit too random, put them into a rainbow: red book covers, then orange, then yellow – you get the idea.

So now you’ve got your amazing books on display, and a crowd of students is clamoring to take them home. What next? How will you keep track of them?

First things first. Don’t worry too much if a book disappears now and then. It means your students are reading, and that’s the dream.

For the simplest, low-tech checkout option, simply print a sign-out sheet where students can dash off their name and the book they are grabbing. Either tack it to the wall by your shelf or put it in a binder. When they bring the book back, have them show you and you can cross off their name and book.

Another easy option, if you have classroom iPads, is to have students snap a selfie with their book as they check it out, then you can delete it when they return the book. Bonus, you can use these selfies for making book recommendation posters if they like the books. Just use the free poster tool at Canva and you’ll be ready to print in moments.

Get ready to hear the buzz of happy students huddled around your shelves! You know everything you need to launch your library.

Betsy’s passion is helping English teachers build innovative and creative lessons. Get inspired and follow along with her at Spark Creativity.

Ready for something a bit more techy? Check out Follett Classroom Library Manager. It’s a free tool to help you keep your classroom library organized and spark meaningful conversations around what students are reading. Simply upload your books, organize them in virtual bins, and you’re off. You’ll even get reports on what students are reading, what books are most popular and which aren’t, to help you add books students want to read to your classroom library.

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