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!