being a teacher, books, organization, Reading

Small Ideas for a Better Organized Classroom Library

With 12 days left of the school year, they trickle in.  Some worn and tattered, others still as crisp as the day they entered our room.  Found in lockers, backpacks, discovered under beds and pulled after being accidentally shelved on personal bookshelves, our books are coming home.  The shelves of the library filling back up and all of our bins bursting at the seams.  So as I did another round of shelving, I put them back so I can assess our inventory, I realized that the organization of texts needed a little bit of attention.  That some of our categories were simply too large to really be useful.   After some inspiration from Penny Kittle – are you listening to the Book Love Foundation Podcast yet – and also from my colleague awesome Reidun, I had a few ideas for what we needed; goodbye gigantic shelf of one particular genre; hello sub genres.

So what has changed in our library the past few weeks?  (To see what else I do for library organization, go here).

Better picture book organization.  Our collection is vast, I am not sure how many we have, but I do know that it was taking me a good 10 minutes to find the particular book I needed at any given time.  Since I know that the students like to grab and put them back quickly, I devised a simple system; every picture book gets a letter corresponding to the author’s last name on its spine.  That’s it.  Now they are filed by the subgroup of the letter, however not alphabetically within the letter, and finding that one really great book is super easy.

Better non-fiction categories.   My students have not gravitated much toward non-fiction and I am partly to blame.  I read it but do not book talk it much and our non-fiction section was vast but not organized.  I re-arranged the bins, added all of our historical fiction bins to the same area and then introduced the following sub-genres:

True Tales – for all of those crazy but true stories of epic events that do not center around a single person.

Life Stories – for all of the extraordinary stories about unknown people.

Biographies – Different from life stories as they tend to center around famous people.

Learn Something – Want to learn about coding?  Dinosaurs? Sharks?  Archaeology or Atheism?  There is a book in this bin for you.

World War II and War History – I have separate bins for these because they tend to be a popular topic.

Better realistic fiction categories.  Another massive collection of texts, yet there are so many differences in books.  Some of the new sub-categories introduced were:

Death & Dying – A very popular topic in our library; three bins worth to be exact.  The students actually cheered when I told them of this new section – Thank you Ms. Bures for the idea.

The High School Experience – books centered around being a high school student in all of its sometimes glorious messiness.

Personal Struggles – Thank you everyone for all of the great suggestions of names for this category.  These are the books that have to do with eating disorders, suicide, sexual identity and any other struggle that a teen may go through.

Nature & Survival – When nature plays a key part to the plot, the story goes in here.

Other sub categories include Animals and Sports.  I will ask students what else we need.  I debated doing a relationship one, but fear that the label itself will steer some students away from the genre.  I am pondering this one still.

To place by author or not?  While I created a few new author bins, I am now wondering if I should dissolve them.  I have noticed that many of my students will not even glance at an author bin unless they already love that author.  But if all of the author’s books are in a bin by themselves then a student does not come across them unless someone book talks them.  So, perhaps I should not have author bins at all?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Next up fantasy and science fiction.  While I already created a Fantasy & Fairy tales bin (because I love Rump and A Tale Dark and Grimm so much), I know I want to add realistic fantasy, dragons, magic, and other sub-categories as well.  Same goes for science fiction, sub categories there will be space adventure, and dystopian texts among others.  My first step though is to ask the students what they would like.

All books are stamped on the inside cover with a genre designation underneath them.  So a book may have RF/D&D written in sharpie in it, meaning that it goes in any of the 3 Death & Dying bin.  I am not worried about which bin since they are all the same category.

While this is not a brilliant new idea, I thought I would share it because I wish I had thought about doing it sooner.  I am excited to continue to go through our library, continuing to make books attractive and easily found by the students, because in the end that is what all of this is about; shelving the books quickly so they can leave our classroom quickly, happily nestled in the hands of an excited potential reader.

If you are wondering why there seems to be a common thread to so many of my posts as of late, it is because I am working on two separate literacy books.  While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher.  Those books will be published in 2017 hopefully, so until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.





1 thought on “Small Ideas for a Better Organized Classroom Library”

  1. I love the Personal Struggles subcategory! I’ve also been trying to figure out how to make the general RF bins more manageable. I have a death and dying bin plus a grief & loss, bullying, and YA. And I have to say, since I added the genre/subgenre to the inside of the book, shelving and finding them has been much easier! I use Booksource’s Classroom organizer, which lets you put the location, so now I even know what bin to go to when a student is looking for something specific.

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