Check out this free, online tool that helps you organize your classroom library and keep track of which student has what book.

Rethinking Your Classroom Library: A Check out System Worth Checking Out

Check out this free, online tool that helps you organize your classroom library and keep track of which student has what book.

Written by Guest Blogger Kipp Martin

As child I used to enjoy playing library with my sister.  We would setup all of our books with library checkout cards and stamp the date of checkout and check-in in the back of the books.  Our books were organized by themes and we used popsicle sticks as shelf markers. Also, in, “Kipp’s Library,” there were strict rules and expectations to follow.  The rules were:

  1. No writing in the books or you will be charged.
  2. Don’t dog-ear the pages.
  3. Return the book on the due date.

Fast-forward nearly twenty-five years later and my love for books and organization continues as I start my sixth year of teaching upper elementary. 

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My First Classroom Library

During my first year of teaching fourth grade English Language Arts, I had over 600 books in my classroom library, which contained copies of a complete popular series.  After that first year, I experienced what a lot of teachers face, the dreaded case of missing books. This was due to the fact that there were no clear expectations or proper checkout systems in place.  Over the course of the summer, I replaced the books that were missing and created a basic checkout system.

The checkout system included basic information.  (See table below).

A table showing basic information collected to try and organize a 4th grade classroom library

I had student librarians handle filling out the information, but I noticed that they were falling down on the job. I took back control of the library checkout by filling in the information at the beginning of daily independent reading time.  Each table group had a specific day for classroom library checkout and the system was working well, but I wanted to improve the system, make it electronic, and give students more control of the classroom library. With me filling out the information instead of the student, I was losing valuable time for small-group instruction.

There is a Free Program That Does All of That?

I was searching for library checkout systems for elementary levels on the Internet and found many suggestions of systems that worked.  I knew I wanted a system that was electronic for organization and checking out and one that had the capabilities of logging-in in each student their own password.   I came across a free online program, Classroom Organizer by Booksource, which allowed me the capabilities I was looking for and more in an online program.  Did I mention that it was FREE?!? 

Once I setup my account, I was able to start entering my books into the online database.  You can type the ISBN number, or scan it using your phone/tablet or ISBN scanner. Do you remember “Kipp’s Library” from when I was little; well, I purchased a cheap USB Scanner off of Amazon to make it feel like a legit library.  Once I had the scanner in my possession, it was happily clicking through my vast library of books.  Once the book is uploaded to the database you can add information about the reading level, basket locations, cover photos, etc.   

 
 

What Could Go Wrong?

The scanning was going great until I came across a book without a barcode.  Remember, I wanted my classroom library checkout time to be less time consuming for the teacher and my students, so I wanted all of my books to have a barcode on them to make it easier for my students to checkout the books.  If you are like me, your library consists of a lot of Scholastic books, which for the most part do not have a barcode, just the ISBN number listed. Most of the time the ISBN numbers would not be the full ISBN-13 number, so I would have to look it up on websites such as Amazon or ISBN Search 

Once I had the full 13 digit ISBN, I could easily enter it into Classroom Organizer, but remember I wanted ALL of my books to have a barcode.  I discovered that I could easily generate barcodes using the ISBN numbers through Avery. Avery allows you to import a list of barcodes from an Excel sheet.  I used the Avery Template: 5160 (Address Labels 1” x 2- 5/8”) to print out the barcodes.  Also, you don’t have to use the Avery labels. I found 100 Sheets, which gave me 3000 labels for around $12.  You got to love Amazon! While you are purchasing your scanner and labels, go ahead and add packaging tape to your cart, you’ll need it! 

After I had the labels printed, I placed them on the back of the books over the ISBN number printed on the book or a faulty barcode and to ensure that they were on there secure I placed a piece of packaging tape over the barcode.  Better safe than sorry!

Organize your 3rd grade, 4th grade, or 5th grade classroom library using a free online tool.   It will help you keep track of what your students are reading and what students have what books.

The More the Merrier

The process can take some time; especially if you are like me who currently has over 1000+ books in their classroom library.  My wife, who is also a teacher (kindergarten), was a trooper. She helped stick labels or tape on books and helped organized them into their appropriate baskets.  I also had my students help me when I acquired several boxes of new books. I scanned the books in that had working barcodes. In addition, I sent a Google Form to several of my students to help me collect the information for books that needed barcodes printed.  The Form asked the following questions:

  1. Title
  2. Author
  3. ISBN
  4. # of Copies

The number of copies question was there to make my life easier when I had to create multiples of one barcode.  The students really enjoyed helping out and they were able to take ownership of the classroom library. Don’t forget to have one student stamp or mark the books with your name.  TIP: One of the best purchases I have made for my classroom was a custom stamp that states: “From the Library of Kipp E. Martin.” (See image below.)

 
Stamp example to put in your classroom library books so that your 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade students can keep better track of them.
 

All the Bells and Whistles

Classroom Booksource is a great program to use to organize your classroom library.   Having only used it one full-year, I am still amazed at all of its capabilities. Here are few of my favorites that are not previously stated:

  • Number of Books & Due Dates:  The program allows you to set the amount of books students are allowed to checkout and how long they may have them out.
  • Reports – This capability is one of my favorites, because I can easily run a report on books and their checkout history, student’s checkout history, etc.  The Student Checkout report is very useful when conferencing with students, because you can have conversations about the amount of time (did the student have the book two months or an hour) students had a book checked out or if you are noticing they are checking out books not on their levels.
  • Reviews – Students can leave reviews for books they have finished, so that their peers can get an idea about the book (this gives student’s voice and a sense of community in their classroom library).  You are probably stressing out, but don’t; there is a setting where the teacher can pre-approve reviews before they are posted. At the beginning and middle of the year my students and I have a discussion on what a good book review looks like and that it is not, “It was funny,” or “I really didn’t like this book.”  Remind your students of your expectations. Your students can also give it a star rank from 1 – 5.
  • Locations – You can designate the location of every title in your classroom library.  I have my books organized in baskets on themes, topics, and/or authors.

Classroom Organizer by BookSource is a free way to help you organize your classroom library so that you can keep up with books and keep track of what your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students are reading.

(Kipp’s Teacher Dashboard on Classroom Organizer by Booksource)

Overall Experience

I would highly recommend using Classroom Organizer by Booksource in your classroom.  It isn’t perfect, but there isn’t one program or system out there that is, especially you can’t beat the price – FREE!  You do have to enter some of the data, for example: levels, locations, nonfiction/fiction, etc., so it does take some extra time, but those are details that can be entered throughout the year.  This summer, I tried to complete all of the locations of the books. It is a great program for upper elementary (3rd, 4th, & 5th) classrooms.  Your students will love the program and how easy it is to operate.

From the days of playing library with my sister to now having a classroom library with an organization system, I am able to promote the love of reading for my fourth grade students.  I would love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments! My email is kemartin@lexington1.net.


Looking to add engaging books to your classroom library?  Find some must have books for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students here.  

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