Classroom Library: Mission Impossible?

When I think of building a classroom library, I quickly become overwhelmed. How do I pick the right books? Where can I get help financially for the resources necessary to build a library? How do I make sure that my books make it back to me? What kind of organizational system do I put in place?
Classroom Library

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Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild explains how teachers can find relevant books for their classroom libraries. Having books that were best sellers from 10 years ago is not wrong. However, we need to make sure that the books we have are current, desired titles.
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Take movies, for example. I am perfectly content to watch movies that are older, I might even surprise myself with how much I enjoy the film. There is nothing wrong with watching movies that have already made their way through the theater. Sometimes though, I cannot wait for that hot new release. I cannot wait to watch and be a part of the pop culture.
Books are the same. Readers can enjoy classics, recent best sellers, and whatever other books are in a classroom library. However, students need a chance to grab at the brand new books that are wildly popular. They need a chance to read and make connections with other raving readers.
And so a daunting, never-ending list of books is produced. If you need new releases, you will constantly be buying. So how can you grab up books without breaking your piggy-bank?
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This is where Sarah Andersen entered the scene for me. In her blog post, she addresses many issues related to building a classroom library. One of the most helpful is her reassurance that the money spent is worth it. If I want my students to have access to an incredible classroom library, I need to be okay with the money I might have to spend.
Sarah Andersen suggests building a budget and sticking to it. I struggle with budgets, but I definitely see the value here. She also mentions requesting books from friends, colleagues, and current and past students. If that is not enough, there is the option of DonorsChoose where individuals can choose to sponsor the needs of a classroom.
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Book Love by Penny Kittle confirmed my fears that no system is guaranteed. Books go missing. They are lost, ruined, or stolen. If my purpose of the classroom library is to provide opportunities for my students to encounter meaningful reading moments, then I need to be comfortable with the casualties I will face.
Students might take a book and connect so deeply that they can’t stand to return it. Great! Mission accomplished! Others might read the book, toss it to the side, and misplace it. Some will spill water, juice, or food all over the sacrificial pages. My goal is to touch students with books. I cannot regret any of these circumstances.
Instead, I will reorder, reorder, and reorder (That’s where Sarah Andersen’s financial advice really helps.)
Finally, my biggest question: HOW in the world do I organize a library??
My own shelves at home are a chaotic mess. Half the time, my books don’t even make it there. They are on my table, in my car, on my nightstand, tucked into my purse. I have no system with few books; how am I supposed to organize many?
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Again, much thanks to Penny Kittle and Sarah Anderson. Anderson suggests that books be organized in alphabetical order by author, while Kittle recommends by genre. Though these are both different strategies, I learned that organization depends on the person.
As I build and create my library, my own system will hopefully take shape. Of course I will try to model others, but I’m sure I’ll have to tweak and trim until I have something that works for me.
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7 responses to “Classroom Library: Mission Impossible?

  1. So many great questions here! I kind of love those book titles that perpetually go missing, the ones that students just can’t bear to return to the library. I used to do a “candy for books” swap once or twice a semester–bring back a book, get a Snickers bar. Some students just loved to check out books and store them in their lockers unread, so the swap always worked to get a lot of books back. I organized my books loosely by genre or format–sports biographies, fantasy, graphic novels, realistic fiction, verse novels. But it was hard to keep the library organized.

    • That’s a really great idea! I honestly have been one of those students before. The book just rots away in my locker, backpack, room, ect. When you organized your books by loose genre, did you have them in separate totes? A bookshelf?

  2. Curating, organizing, and adding to my classroom library has been so fun! I’m always asking people to donate books they have. Plus, educators get a tax benefit currently up to $250 per year. I also bought a stamp to label all my books and organize them by genre. Check out Pernille Ripp’s blog for more tips on the classroom library – I have based mine sheerly from her and Elisabeth’s suggestions.

    • Thanks, Kelsey! I’ve never actually read much of Pernille Ripp’s blog, even though I know I definitely should. Looks like I better start! 🙂 What kind of stamp do you use? And do you have them separated in totes? How does that system work?

  3. Building a library for a classroom can be very stressful on a an individual. I have found that going to goodwill stores you can find decent shape books for .25 or less. I have been working on my library for some time now so I have quiet a selection.

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