10 Tips for End of Year Classroom Library Organization

The beginning of the school year is not the only time we should be intentional with our classroom library organization. During the year, of course, we should update and refresh it to keep student interest high. But the end of the year is another time we should pay close attention to it. With just a little bit of TLC, you can both strengthen your classroom library and make it far easier to set up in the fall.

Let’s get right to it!

10 End of Year Classroom Library Organization Tips

  1. Check the condition of your books. Do you have a pile of ripped books, books that are missing, metal, staples, or covers that are falling off? Fix them if they can be fixed, otherwise, just trash them. We wouldn’t even pick up beat up books from Barnes and Noble, because they are not attractive. The same is true for kids. 
  2. Take a look at the selections that you have. Are there some categories that are lacking? Are there some that were super popular and never had enough to go around? Some that never were touched at all? Remove them. Maybe bring them out later in the year next year, or just donate them. Sometimes, books have just run their course. 
  3. At the same time, think about how many books you have. There’s no need to necessarily count them, but on average, a strong classroom library has a minimum of 500 books. Richard Allington has always said that roughly 1000 to 1500 is the goal. Summertime is garage sale season – – came to pick some books up at some garage sales for pennies. This is a fantastic way to add more to your library. If you live in a neighborhood, or know somebody that does, put a Facebook group post out there, saying that you were a teacher of ___ grade level, looking for books. People are usually extremely generous with this, and you can get a lot.  Often for free.  Check out the Nerdy Book Club blog for more ideas on how to find books for your classroom library for a bargain.  
  4. Think about the condition of your library. Is it messy because your kids aren’t putting things away properly? This could be a sign that you might need a tighter system in place next year. Give that some thought over the summer, so that you can teach that right away for a better start next year. 
  5. Think about the times that your kids were using the library… Did they trip all over each other, was there enough room for kids? Were you able to see them all when they were in there? Do you need to move it to a different place next year? Or…do you need to split it into a couple of different sections in your room instead?
  6. In thinking of accessibility, be honest.  Is your classroom library set up to be aesthetically pleasing for you…or is it truly set up to draw kids in?  When books are all lined up with spines facing out, sorted alphabetically by author, it’s very difficult for students to find what might interest them.  They might look pretty with that rainbow gradient of colors on display, but think…how does this support students?  Some kids might know the name of a favorite author or two, but this does nothing to broaden their horizons.  It’s also impossible to really see what’s there.  I tried this myself one year, and will never do it again. 
  7. Consider the makeup of your students. Think about their families, cultures, ethnicities, and  interests. Are there books in which they can see themselves? Are there books in which they can learn about others? If not, remember this when you pick up new books over the summer. 
  8. Another way to accumulate books–and a great way to test them out with kids–is to simply borrow from your local library. This is often a very overlooked resource. Libraries are very current in their collection, and can interlibrary transfer books if your particular branch doesn’t have what you’re looking for. Usually, teachers can borrow 50 or more books at a time. This is an incredible way to keep your library fresh all year long, as well as test run different books  before you buy.  Just be sure to keep track of where they all are, because the late fees really do add up – – I have learned this the hard way from multiple experiences! 
  9. Grab a sampling of maybe 10 books – – what are the copyright dates? If they’re pretty old, they’re probably not attractive to kids. Does the cover look like it’s from 1987? Then no one‘s gonna want to read that book. Are the pages yellowing?  Again, no one’s going to want to read that book. Blogger Savannah Campbell, in her Nerdy Book Club post, agrees! So often, we accumulate donations of books from everyone and their brother when we start out as teachers. And a lot of times, these are books that people are just really wanting to get rid of themselves. Which means quality isn’t always there.  Just because it was given to us, doesn’t mean we have to keep it. It is your classroom library… make it what you want it to be. It is OK to toss out books that nobody wants. This takes up too much valuable real estate in your classroom, and is a complete waste. 
  10. Think about leveling vs not leveling.  It’s important to understand the reasons both for and against this, and decide for yourself.  I have a whole blog post about this–I encourage you to check it out to help you come to a decision that will be most supportive of the students you’ll have in the fall.  Deciding on this now will save you a whole lot of overwhelm later–it’s all about having a plan!

Like these tips? 

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And one more very important classroom library organization consideration:

Think about your kids as they come into you next year. If you’ve been teaching for a couple of years, you will know roughly what sorts of books and levels kids are reading when they come to you in the fall. If you’re a brand new teacher, think about general benchmarks. Let’s say you are a second grade teacher. This means that your incoming kids just ended first grade, and also probably won’t have read very much over the summer so they may lose some skills. They will not be exactly the same readers in the fall that they were in the spring the year prior. 

So if, on average, your second graders are pretty comfortable coming in with books like Henry and Mudge, a level J, then you would put out some of those, and quite a few that are easier than that, so that they can read independently. You certainly would have no reason to put out any Harry Potters or Magic Treehouse immediately. Those can come later on, as kids grow into that level of complexity.  This is where understanding how text levels work is very helpful.  

When we put out every single book that we own and don’t consider the developmental level of the kids you have coming in, the amount of choice that they have is far too overwhelming. And that sets them up to make inappropriate choices. But if we whittle the choices down to what we know kids will be able to handle independently, it serves as a scaffold to help them make good decisions to help ensure that their independent reading time is used most effectively. 

If kids don’t have appropriate, developmentally supportive books in their hands, they’re not getting anything out of it. It is up to us to guide students toward making smart choices, and that begins with the choices that we provide in the first place.  

Again, as your kids grow over the year, you can bring out some of these new and exciting books. This will greatly increase their excitement over the books in your library, and continue to help them want to come back for more.  

So, some time spent at the end of the year weeding out, taking stock of what’s needed, and thinking about systems for students.  The more we plan for optimal organization and greater accessibility now will pay off big in the fall to set up your classroom library quickly and easily. 

This will greatly reduce overwhelm at the beginning of the year, when teachers already have 10 million to-do tasks on their list.

So while your neighboring teachers are still up to their ears in books to organize, you can rest assured that you’re ready for your new students!

Want some help preparing for a more streamlined, less-stress school year?  Contact me to set up a coaching call!  And  join my private FB group for immediate support! 

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Related posts:  Interactive Read Aloud vs Read Aloud:  Which is Better, Setting Up Your Classroom LibraryReading Logs that Actually WorkGetting to Know Your Readers and Writers to Save Time Later, Where to Start with Room Set Up

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