Behavior Management in the Library

How do you encourage good behavior in the library? As elementary librarians, we have the added challenge of keeping order in multiple classrooms. I've worked at several different schools during my education career, and I can tell you that this has never been an easy task. It's especially difficult if the librarian before you had different rules and expectations (or none at all, like some situations I've been in!). I wanted to share some behavior management strategies that have worked for me.

Establish Rules and Expectations

This should be #1 on your agenda every year. If you are on my mailing list, you should have received a sample of my library lesson plans. You'll see that I spend a lot of time going over my rules, and for good reason. I have very specific rules and expectations for my library, and I try to be very fair when enforcing them.

Have Meaningful Consequences and Follow Through

Explain the consequences of not following the rules, and when students don't follow them, do something about it. This sends a message to the other students: you're not messing around. I like to start with trying to handle the behavior issues with the classroom teacher, but if I'm still having trouble, I'll send notes home (it's always a good idea to have a paper trail when dealing with behavior issues) or call home. I've done a few office referrals for severe behavior, but luckily that doesn't happen too often. I've found that once you start taking action with one or two students, you usually don't have too many problems from that point on.

Use a Seating Chart

I can't stress this enough. It really is that important. I assign seats in the library because it gives the students a place in the library to call home. They don't have to wander around looking for a place to sit, because they always go to the same place. I am extremely inflexible when it comes to the seating chart, and the students know it. I know this because each time one of them asks me if they can sit with their friends, they always grin when I tell them no. I do too. It's a well known fact that you don't change your seat in the library.

Establish a Positive Behavior Reward System

By this point, you might be thinking that my library sounds like a prison. I can assure you that it is far from it. In fact, my students love the library. I rarely have any behavior issues, thanks to the systems I have in place. Rather than always concentrating on consequences for negative behavior, I like to reward positive behavior. I've done this several different ways. At my last school, I did a behavior bulletin board. Each classroom had a "bookshelf", which I stapled 4 paper books to at the beginning of each library class. If students were well-behaved, they might receive an extra book. If not, I would take books away. Once their homeroom's bookshelf was completely full, we would have a reward day. Reward days might consist of outside play time, outside reading time, or indoor game time when the weather didn't cooperate.

This year, I bought lots of small and large rewards to give away to students. I have scented bookmarks, candy, and lots of other kid-friendly trinkets that I give to people who are following the library's rules. You would be amazed at how the behavior of the entire class will change when I start handing out prizes. Want students to use shelf markers? Praise someone who's using them and give them a prize. Students not sitting in their assigned seats? Give out a prize or two to others who are following the rules. It's amazingly effective.

I also created a Library Treasure Box, which is in the picture at the top of the post. I used some of my book fair credit to buy a bunch of the book fair "junk" kids love so much - UV pens, drumstick pencils, cell phone erasers, bracelets, etc. When someone has really exceptional behavior, I let them choose something out of the Library Treasure Box. They love it at every grade level!

To create my Library Treasure Box, I found an old book fair box, covered it with bulletin board paper, and used the library's Cricut machine to make the letters and stars. I'm not completely finished decorating yet, but I know the finished product will be a hit!

How do you manage student behavior in your library? What works best for you? Share with us in the comments!


  1. Brook Berg says

    Having well known, reasonable and fair expectations is the key for me. We use above the line, below the line and bottom line in our school. All the specialists in the school got together and made a short list of behaviors. When a student is below the line, I give them a choice to fix it or have consequences. Most kids want to fix it and together we come up with a plan to fix it. If the kids don't follow through, they will get my consequence. I cey seldom ever have anyone fall below the line.
    I think about the expectations as turning on the lights in a pitch black room. If you send people into the room, they will stumble around knocking into each other and whatever is in the room – dangers and chaotic. But if you turn the lights on most of the people will stay out of each others way and stay safe.
    I too have give aways to outstanding citizens. I always talk about characteristics of a good citizen. It is one of our standards, so a good way of reinforcing those ideas. Kids have picked up on terminology.

  2. Melisa says

    I use class dojo @ class dojo,com. It helps students to monitor their own behavior. I also incorporate class rewards. I like you idea about seating charts

    • Rhonda Gamboa says

      Melisa, I would love to learn more about your experiences with Class Dojo. Is there a reward or consequence assoicated with this computer system? Do you display on the Smart Board? Do you use your smart phone to update the students behavior?

    • Heather says

      I only found Class Dojo towards the end of the year but my few experiences with it have been AWESOME! It is a really great program and the kids were so into it. I pulled it up for a second grade class while they were working and without even saying anything, they began to notice it and get excited, pointing out good behavior and self-monitoring (and monitoring each other "Devin, it says youre being disruptive, quiet down!"). I showed the teacher the board and she loved seeing how everyone had behaved at a glance. Its printable and it has stats as well. I *think* it will separate the class into small groups too.

      I intend to input each class for next year and I am considering having students go to the whiteboard and change their own "domo" for good and bad behavior.

  3. Elizabeth Vollmer says

    I have never used seating charts but I am rethinking my position. It is generally the same small number of students who make me scowl. A seating chart will eliminate a fair number of my frown lines. Thanks so much for your post and inspiration!

  4. Sheryl says

    I don't use seating charts but… if a student is not following directions or paying attention they are assigned a seat for a period of time. They have to earn they way out of the assigned seat. Great motivation to follow directions and listen for all the students.

  5. Amy Penwell says

    I have struggled with the idea of rewards for behavior, because I really don't ask for anything more than basic good school/class behavior in the library. It seems unnecessary to reward students for doing what they are supposed to be doing! But maybe I will consider awards for exceptional behavior.

    I know several special subject teachers at our school do class based awards ('art award', 'gym award' – with a token something that gets displayed in the class for the week), based on their best behaved class all week. Class Dojo would work for this. Maybe I can repurpose a weeded title (or a blank notebook for the classes to be listed in) with some gold spray paint and create 'The Golden Book' award :)

    • Elem_Librarian says

      That's really the idea behind it. I am with you that kids shouldn't be rewarded for normal good behavior. Occasionally I do give something out for exceptional behavior.

    • Tyra H. says

      As far as behavior, I got an idea from another librarian in my district. He has Vacation Station. I got a palm tree with a hula girl and a monkey and taped them to a pole in my library. There the kids will find a cooler, a desk, some pencils and a stool. It looks very inviting, but there's a catch. If I have to remind students more than three times to change their behavior, they have to take a trip, a vacation from the rest of the class. Once there, they must write a paragraph so many times according to their grade level. For example, 5th grade has to write it 50 times and get it signed by their parent. I also make a phone call home, just in case they refuse to do the assignment. I am proud to say that I have only had one child take a vacation. Grades KDG-1st have to write their numbers 1-100 by filling in a blank 100 chart for the 3 times I reminded them to change their behavior. Again, only one kid went on vacation, and they were in the 1st grade.

      • Rachel says

        This is a fantastic, effective sounding idea. Would you please give more details about what grades 2-4 might write and the length?

      • Molly Matchak says

        I know this is an old post, but I feel compelled to comment on it. PLEASE don’t use writing as a punishment. I understand using it as a reflection piece – having the student write about the misbehavior and how he or she can change that behavior, but the repetitive part of it is overkill and undermines process of learning to write and to enjoy writing. I worked in a school where that was part of the school-wide discipline policy and as a Language Arts teacher at the time, I cannot express to you how just how detrimental it was to the students.

  6. brentwoodeagles says

    I only see my 500+ students for class every other week since we are on an "A" "B" schedule. It is hard for me to get to know the students and I spend too much time re-seating students who "forget" where their assigned seat is between visits. Does anyone have a really easy way to manage the assigned seating? I've thought about using those plastic sleeves for name tags but that would require me to change them between classes and I'm lucky to have 5 minutes between classes.

    • Elem_Librarian says

      I use an Excel spreadsheet for my seating chart. Each table has a number, and each seat is numbered as well. I just open the appropriate spreadsheet right before the kids come in. It's not perfect, but it works.

      • Tyra H. says

        I don't assign seats at all. It all begins on the first day my students have library. I let them choose where they would like to sit, but I remind them that if that seat does not work for me, I will change is ASAP. I then pass out a sheet that has 7 circles representing the tables in my library. Each circle has the numbers 1-4, students write their name that represents the chair they are sitting in. I have the chairs labeled on the back. The numbers go clockwise. Students write their names and I put their seating chart with their check-out folder.

      • Mercedes says

        I have 8 rectangular tables that my students sit at. I made a hand drawn template of 8 numbered rectangles (I know. Very old school). I write the students’ names in pencil, so they can be changed. The kids learn their seats pretty quickly. I like it because I can take attendance quickly and easily. My question is, I would like to purchase your lesson plans and do centers, but I don’t know how to do that with my room configuration. The computers center is easy, but I’m having trouble conceptualizing how to do the directed lesson center. We could move to the story rug area, but my Smart Board is at the front of the room in front of all the tables, and also, how do I keep from distracting the students that are working on the 3rd center?

    • Heather says

      This was my experience as well, I ditched seating charts half-way through the year. Perhaps assigning students by TABLE and not worrying so much which seat? When I do centers I end up using the tables for centers so they are pre-set. I tend to move things around as well, tables in semi-circle for a couple weeks, tables in groups etc.. Its a work in progress…

      • Elem_Librarian says

        Seating charts are definitely a personal preference thing. Do what works for you! Thanks for sharing your ideas! :)

    • Amy Penwell says

      My story rug has rows of stars, a different color for each row. I named my work tables the same as the story rug rows. So if you sit on a blue star on the rug, you sit at the blue star table. I have more students in some classes than I have star spaces, so I brought in some carpet squares (blue ones and yellow ones). So kids are on blue stars, some are on blue squares, green stars, red stars, yellow stars, yellow squares.This helps – the kids only have to remember the color and the shape they sit on, and the visual is there for the tables. I keep a seating chart in a folder for each class, where I also hold the lesson plan for that day, their library barcode/shelfmarker, and any lesson extensions I will be using. It keeps everything handy, and it does help eliminate the ‘I dont remember where I sit!” panic.

    • Rachel says

      Each library student receives a Library Contract ( with Library Expectations and behavior guidelines) that they read together as a class and must have signed by their family BEFORE they are allowed to check out materials. This contract has their family’s phone numbers and emails. (When new students enroll, they are given a contract and expected to have it signed.)
      I keep these in a folder of the fixed schedule day that they visit the Library. Before each class enters, I place each student’s contract at an assigned seat/table. Of course, I change this up weekly, and some students sit alone at first if they are repeat distractors.

      • Brenna Caldwell says

        I know this is an old post, but I would love to see a copy of your contract if you don’t mind sharing.

    • Nadine says

      I have the tables numbered and students are assigned to a table. I write the table number and the students name under the number on one paper per class. When they come in, they go to their table. I keep the lists in a binder and in the morning I attach the classes that are going to come to a clipboard.

  7. Jill Hietala says

    I have used seating charts and feel that time spent setting them up is worth every minute. I use card stock paper with the tables drawn. I cut up post-it-notes and write kids’ names. It is easy to move a kid’s spot. Finally, I put each chart inside a clear page protector. Each morning, I take out that day’s classes. I also use a highlighter to mark the kids who forgot to return books, so I don’t give them a shelf marker. They have to stay in their seat and look at books already in the table while others are finding books to borrow.

  8. amy says

    How do you manage the seating charts? I have six grade levels that come to my library with 4-5 classes per grade level.

  9. Betsy Damon says

    I’m finding that I will need to institute seating charts in my classes. We have attendance software that lets me make seating charts with student pictures, but I can’t figure out how to mark the seats so kids know which seat is theirs especially when meetings move the chairs (and sometimes tables!) around. I need a way that won’t provide a distraction or plaything for the students. Any ideas?

  10. Jessica says

    I started using part of the whole brain teaching strategies where I use the scoreboards for each class. They can get happy faces or sad faces. When they get 10 happy faces they have a free library class or get to checkout an extra book. If they get 10 sad faces they loose open access privilege for one week. The scoreboards are posted for each class to compete against each other as well. This has worked great thus far!

  11. says

    I have table behavior targets at each table as a reminder of what it looks like in the library to be READY, RESPECTFUL, RESPONSIBLE, and SAFE (our school rules). I have also created TICKETS TO READ to give as rewards for outstanding library behavior. These are just printed on sticky notes and placed on students library cards so the next time they check books out they know they earned an extra book. The students love them and will almost always pick these over our all school reward system.

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