5 Tips To Organize Your Classroom Library

One question that comes up on the  Kindergarten Smorgasboard Facebook page a lot is about classroom library organization.  I recently asked about classroom library organization on our Facebook page and there were tons of great answers…tons of ideas…and tips.  BUT….people…can you believe I’ve never done a blog post dedicated to my library?!?!   FOR SHAME!   Mr. Greg has been a bad boy.  But today we shall rectify this wrong.

I recently revamped our classroom library.  I got rid of books (duplicates and old worn-out books), and more importantly, I re-did my categories and organization.  I split a lot of categories into more narrowed down categories.  This allowed me to line up our classroom library more closely to our themes and units.  For example:  instead of 5 boxes of “holiday” books, we now have holiday-specific boxes.  There’s a Halloween box, a Christmas box, etc.  This means more categories but things are much more organized!  

Before we dive into the library organization, we have to discuss the contents of your classroom library.  Here’s a question we all need to keep in mind when considering our library:

Do our students see themselves and their families in the books in our library?  Do they see their cultures, traditions and customs?  Do the students see different people, cultures, customs, etc in the books in our library?  

It is our ethical responsibility to make sure that our library reflects our world and our students.  There are many resources out there (Book Wrangler Mike, The Tutu Teacher on Instagram) that share amazing books that are inclusive.  We share our book collections which we are constantly working to make more inclusive.  I get it.  Some topics make us uncomfortable but it is still necessary to include those books and topics in our library.  And it’s important to have this discussion with your teammates, your admin, and the school librarian.  In fact, we had this discussion with Adelynn’s school and they were so appreciative of our conversation and immediately filled their classrooms with more books that represented same-sex families.  All that said, making our classroom library inclusive is a MUST!

Here are my 5 tips for organizing your classroom library.

1.  Space.  

Your classroom library should be a major part of your classroom space.  It shouldn’t be tucked away in that dark corner where pencils, glue lids, and scissors go to die.   Incorporating the space into your classroom gives students visual clues to the importance of reading.
Make sure the space is open, well lit, and inviting!
Here are some pictures of our classroom library spaces from the past few years:
Our library has sat in a corner of the classroom and was a completely open space.  When the ‘staches are sitting in the library, they can see everything happening in the classroom.  And, let’s be honest, Mr. Greg can see what you’re doing in the library!
Another classroom library arrangement that we have used sat in the middle of the classroom.  Again, this gives the visual cue that reading and books are central to everything in our classroom!
classroom library organization
In the following pictures, you’ll notice one thing:  you couldn’t see behind the bookshelves.  So we re-arranged the shelves to create a more open space and even created a little reading nook!  (And yes, we have a giant gnome who hangs out in our classroom….he likes to move around the room and keep the kids on their toes!)

classroom library organization

classroom library organization

And now, our current classroom library set up!  We moved our library to the hallway in our classroom.  This sets a visual example that reading is the first thing we think of in our classroom!   And it frees up a TON of space in the rest of the classroom!

classroom setup

2.  Organized Chaos

You need a system to keep your library and all of those books organized.  This system needs to be user friendly for you AND the students.
I use a system that is so user friendly, that when other teachers ask to borrow a book or ask for books on a topic, I can tell them exactly which box to look in.  So, how does Mr. Greg do this?
It’s as easy as 1.2.3….34.35…..44..45….60.61.62…
Each box in my library is numbered.  I started at 1 and went until my boxes were numbered.  As I added books and boxes the numbering can stay the same.  So if I add another box for feelings and emotions (#5) I would number that bok #5 because the topic or theme is the same.  This means all of the books in each theme stay the same number.  So when we need a book about feelings I can say “box #5” and not “boxes 5, 34, and 36.”   Remember, keep it simple.
Every book that belongs in a box is numbered with the same number.  In the picture above, this is box 5.  All of the books in that box are numbered 5.
This makes returning books SUPER easy for me and for the ‘staches.  (And it serves as constant number recognition practice!  WHAT WHAT math in the library?!!?!)
Our books are sorted in multiple ways:  author, theme/topic, genre.  There is no rule or checklist for how a book is sorted.  It’s kind of just what my mind says at the moment!
NOTE:  All of the books are in the library.  Even the books we use for read alouds.  They are all in the library.  I don’t have a sepereate set of books for me and a set for the kids.  The books belong to us all.

3.  Containers.

If you’re going to be organized and have a fantastic system in place, you need containers to contain the books.
Slowly, over the years, I’ve transitioned to one type of container.  In the past I had a bunch of containers AND THAT IS TOTALLY AWESOME AND OK.    I’m not one of these teachers who needs the containers to match or be a pattern…I like a little spice in my life…a little variety!  They don’t have to be the same or match.  Really, it’s ok.
I use plastic ice bins from Wal-mart.  They cost about $1.50 so they’re cheap and they hold up well.
classroom library organization
You also need good, strong shelves.  Mine was custom built by this organization here in Nashville called Nashville Tools For Schools!  They build classroom furniture cheap or free!  And it’s great stuff!!
Finally we have transitioned to all-white containers!  This has been a FIVE YEAR process but we finally have all white containers!

4.  Creature comforts!

Your library needs to be inviting!  It needs to be a place where your class wants to spend time reading and developing a love of reading!
Our library has a plastic swimming pool with pillows!!!!  TRUE STORY!   Best $9 ever spent!
Our rule is 2 people in the pool at a time.  I love glancing in the library and seeing my friends laid out in the pool reading books, sharing books, and…wait for it…DISCUSSING BOOKS!!!!
I really think the relaxing nature of the pool helps them open up and talk about the books more.  And really…it’s just plain fun!
We have stuffed animals and Scentsy Buddies we can use read to or read with!
And yeah, we have a giant poop emoji in our classroom library!
classroom library organization


You’ve put all of this time, energy, and money into setting up your library.  You need to put in just as much time and
energy training your class on how to use and take care of the library.
We spent an entire week (A WEEK PEOPLE!) modeling, training, practicing, and repeating how to use the library.  Wet, lather, repeat.  Kind of like that…
 Practice taking a box off the shelf.
We model how to take a book out of the box.
And we model how to lay in the pool.
We model how to push the books to the side and carefully replace our book.
I pass out a book to each ‘stache and we practice returning it to the right number.
We practice a lot.  But this helps the library stay organized and gives the students ownership.

And my final tip for classroom library organization:

VARIETY!  The more books the better!  I’m currently up to 10,000 books.  This variety makes sure every child can find books they enjoy.  And when we are in the library, it’s free choice.  They can get any book and read!   I want the classroom library to be a place of fun and joy and a place where my ‘staches develop a love of reading!!
Here is a list of my classroom library topics!  (Click to download a free PDF file!)

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