How To Make the Most of Your Classroom Library: A 5 Part Series


It took me about six years before I actually liked my classroom library. And it was important to me to like my classroom library, because if I didn't, who the heck else would? Certainly not my students.

But I’m a tinkerer by nature, so I’m betting you will beat six years, or maybe you already have. Each year I gave quite a bit of thought to my classroom library, trying to think about what would make it better. The classroom library is the most important place in my classroom, so I couldn't help but continue to make changes. And who am I kidding? I still tweak it here and there. 


But what was it that made my library cross over into the "ahhh-this-is-finally-working" zone after those six years? What did I like about it? Three things:

Functionality: It had to be organized in a way that students knew where to find and return books efficiently.
Character: It had to be a welcoming, interesting place to be.
The Ability to Last: It had to have enough books and enough ways to stay alive and running throughout the entire year.

My classroom library has been working well for a few years now. It's not perfect, that's for sure, and it's ever-changing, because of the books being added to it (or taken out), because of me never being satisfied, but mostly because of the students who interact with it.

I'd like to share with you my thoughts about classroom libraries by telling you all about mine. Along the way, I hope that you pick up a few tips and ideas for your own classroom library. I'm going to have five parts for you over the next few weeks:


Thanks for checking them out!

21 comments:

  1. Always appreciate your thoughts on libraries!!

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    1. Great to hear from you! Hope you are enjoying your summer!!

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  2. I look forward to hearing more about your library. I am constantly tweaking mine. I am in a new classroom and the shelves are built in to the wall and it makes it difficult to make an inviting area to read. Where did you get the white bins shown in the picture?

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    1. Those are ice cube bins (from Target or Walmart, I think). They work great for chapter books! I have lots of ideas for containers of books on the way! Thanks,
      Michae

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  3. I'm really looking forward to your posts, especially on introducing and keeping your library thriving! I constantly tweak mine as well and have such a small space that I'm also always on the lookout for better ways to arrange and organize!

    Linda
    AroundtheKampfire

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    1. So glad you are interested, Linda! Yes, I can't wait to share ideas on keeping your library THRIVING! It's going to be hard to keep my mouth shut about it until the fifth part in my series! :)
      -Michael

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  4. I'm looking forward to hearing your ideas! My new classroom has NO shelves or counters. We've been told we may not bring in any furniture. I'm stumped.
    Sandy in Delaware

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    1. Yikes! That makes it pretty tough, huh? I'm so glad you commented, Sandy... I have some suggestions that will be in the first part of the series (Arrangement). There's hope!
      -Michael

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  5. This is always a problem in my classroom... not enough space and where do I find all those bins! I do have the gutters which help. Looking forward to your next post.

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    1. Can't wait to share ideas about bins and containers for books! I'm sure some readers will have great ideas too! Thanks, Pam
      -Michael

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  6. I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with my classroom library. My library has been a work-in-progress for 17 years. I swear it is a living, breathing thing with about 3,000 titles. This summer I brought the entire library home and sorted it out down to the very last book. I am returning in the fall with about only 300 of the 3,000 books to start the year off with (I actually saw a student throw away some books last year when asked to pick them up off the floor--WHAT?!?!?--instead of returning them to my very-well labeled/organized library.) I decided, with much frustration, that my kiddos just didn't/couldn't appreciate all that my library had to offer. Could it be too overwhelming with so many choices? It certainly wasn't an organization issue since all the books had labels on the front that matched labels on bins, each has an A.R. or reading level label clearly taped to the back of the book that's easy to read and match to ability, and the library as an entirety covered first through seventh grade reading levels (including periodicals, fiction, and nonfiction selections). So, I figured I would come back with 60% non-fiction and 40% fiction--to match the Common Core requirements--of the most popular titles and then I will gradually reintroduce my library throughout the year by adding more every few weeks. I also went old-school and added a library pocket and card inside to each and every book. I know with scanners and smart phones and iPads this is an archaic route to take, however I think this will be the easiest way to track missing books in the end. My classroom doesn't need all the high-tech bells and whistles, it just needs to be functionable for 35 active kids. I look forward to seeing what you have to say about your library in the coming weeks.

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    1. Hi Cyndi-Lu!
      Thanks for the background--it's so good to hear a different teacher's experience with their library. I can totally connect with a lot of what you said! That 60/40 split on nonfiction/fiction is intriguing. I would love to hear more about how that goes!
      -Michael

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  7. Hi! I am looking forward to your post! I am your newest follower. I think your struggles are true for SO many of us!
    Chelsea
    Kickin It Whole Brain In Texas

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    1. Hi Chelsea!
      Thanks for the encouragement of being on the right track with teachers' struggles. I'm hoping I can give some help and hope!
      -Michael

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  8. I am excited to read this series! I, too, am constantly changing my library. I have a love/hate relationship! :) I teach special ed in a resource classroom for math and reading. Organizing all of my books in a small space is difficult and I'm excited to see what you do.
    Kim
    Mrs. H's Resource Room

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  9. I am a recent graduate with a lot of books of my own! I am interested in finding out how you organize your library! I hope I will be able to incorporate your ideas into my own classroom (when I get one)!

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  10. Michael, thank you for your post. Classroom libraries are difficult to manage and make functional. For this reason, I like the way you have organized this series into five parts.

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  11. I so get the "tinkerer by nature"! I feel like it's taken me years with my library too and I'm still always working on it!! I love the idea for this series and look forward to reading more :)

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  12. Michael, this series is coming at the perfect time! I just moved into a new classroom and after four years of building and loving my library in my old room, I didn't know where to even begin in my new space. My first thought was where to put my library and how to organize the overwhelming number of books I inherited in my new space along with the boxes and boxes of books I personally own. Thank you so much for the tips, I'm looking forward to reading more about your library and your classroom!

    -Lindsay
    http://mcteach5.blogspot.com

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    1. Wow Lindsay! Great timing! I'm glad to play a small part! Good luck setting everything up. I'd love to hear how it goes. :)
      -Michael

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  13. Love your library posts! I have had your Event Calendar post from Who's Who pinned foreverrrrr but just couldn't get my act together to get it done. I just finished making a calendar with different events that matches my classroom (and is soon going to be a Monday Made It). I can't wait to incorporate it this year! Thank you for that post! It really hit home with me:) p.s. In my product (and also when I do the Monday Made It post) I linked to your post;)

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