Having a library in your middle or high school classroom or homeschool is an awesome resource for the students, but it can be a nightmare to manage for you! I’ve done my homework, and researched several different ways to manage your classroom library. There are a variety of options compared below- take a look to see what’s right for you!
If you’re short on time and need something simple and ready to go, check out my classroom library management kit – the worst of the work is already done for you! 🙂
Classroom Organizer is a powerful free tool from online book distributor Book Source. You record your library inventory by scanning the barcode of each book. You will need to enter each student’s information into the system. To check out a book, you or the student will select his name from the database and simply scan the book’s barcode. You as the teacher will have access to all the information on which books are checked out and by whom. And because the Classroom Organizer is tied to Book Source’s database, you will have comprehensive data on the genres and reading levels of books checked out, and can track trends and patterns. To scan barcodes, you and your students can download the free app, or purchase a simple barcode scanner to hook up to your classroom computer.
Book Retriever is a low-cost ($36/ year at the time of writing this post) library management software, very similar to Classroom Organizer. In addition to expanded versions of the features of Classroom Organizer, Book Retriever will generate and print barcodes for the books in your library. They also have an app that you or students can use to check in and out books.
Level It Books
Level It is an app-only system ($4.99 with the option for upgrades at the time of writing this post) similar to the two above. It allows you to check in/ check out library books, manage reading level data, keep wish lists for new books to get, etc. However, it does have a number of mediocre reviews, so perhaps another system would be more effective.
Old-School Card System
If you prefer paper or don’t have access to technology, there is nothing wrong with using traditional library check-out cards. Have the student fill out her name and date on the card, and file it in a box. When the book is returned, retrieve the card from the box, and fill in the returned date. This method might be slightly more time-consuming than other options, and if you want students to complete each step, you’ll need to stay on top of them until they get in the habit. The pro is that it’s time-tested to work, and not reliant on technology to function properly.
For those who love simplicity, this is a preferred method. Number each of your books using any system you choose (or no system at all- it will just make it easier for each book to have a number). I would suggest writing the number on the inside cover of each book, or placing a numbered sticker on the inside. (It’s likely to get rubbed off or ripped off on the outside.) Set up a sturdy notebook divided by classes or grades, or have a clip board for each class, and have students write down the book number, their name, and date checked out in the notebook. When they return, have them jot down the date returned in the space next to their original entry. Print out some simple step-by-step instructions for sign-out, and post them in a couple of places around your library. I personally like numbering the books because it saves time when you have a line of students waiting to sign books out. (It’s faster to jot down a number than copy down a title.) Another thing to save time would be to have more than one notebook or clipboard, so more than one student can sign out at a time. (Of course this would mean you have more pages to look at when inventorying your library.)
Google Form and QR Code
This is essentially the digital version of the above sign-out sheet set up, and it’s a library system that practically runs itself! Create a Google form requiring students to input their name, grade, book number, and select whether they are checking out or checking in. You can use a free QR code creator such as this one, that sends students straight to the Google form to fill out. (Students will need a device that can scan QR codes; a variety of free QR code scanner apps are available for all devices.) Print your QR code and post it in a couple of accessible places around your library, and multiple students can easily check out or in at once. The Google form will timestamp each submission and send all the information to a spreadsheet that you can access anytime. Use the sort and filter features on the spreadsheet to quickly see who still has books out. You can even print out the list of names of students who owe you books to keep on your desk, or post in the classroom or hallway as a reminder. Even if your school doesn’t use Google suite officially, it’s easy to use your personal Google account to set this up, and of course it’s all 100% free! (Students do not need a Google account to use this system.)
This system is already set up for you in my Classroom Library Management Kit – check it out!
CheckItOut- Google Forms Add-on
This is another take on the Google forms set up. A free add-on that some teachers have found helpful is CheckItOut. The add-on will create two sets of data- one for items checked in and another for items checked out. It will move the data between the two sets as students use the form to check in/ out books. I played around with it a bit myself, and found that it was not very user-friendly. Additionally, it doesn’t currently have the best reviews, but it couldn’t hurt to at least play around with, if it piques your interest.
Looking for something ready to go?
I’ve put together a classroom library kit that includes everything you need to get your classroom library organized, under control, and even decorated a little! The kit includes several management options, or it can be used with any system you’re currently using. There are a number of editable items as well, so you can design a classroom library that meets your needs. Click or tap the photo below to check it out!
How about some post-reading assessment ideas? Check out my Book Report Series for some practical info. on several different types of book reports!