Yes, it's true. My students check out their own books. It's not a perfect system, but it's one of the little things that makes my life a lot easier. Now before you hit the back button, shuddering in fear at the thought of doing this, let me explain why I do it (and why it's really not so bad).
Libraries Way Back When...
Years ago, when I was a young girl, I remember visiting our school library each week. Our librarian, Mrs. Roll, took meticulous care of the library's books and taught us how to properly use the library. These were her main responsibilities, and she did a great job. I remember that our library was always in tip top shape. We didn't need to use shelf markers, because you could just put any books you didn't want on the unwanted books cart and Mrs. Roll had plenty of time to painstakingly place them in their correct location. The library was a quiet place to go for research and reading.
Now let's fast forward about 25 years. Today's school libraries look a lot different than they did when I was in elementary school. First of all, the physical card catalog no longer exists, and many of the library's clerical tasks take much less time due to computer automation. The library is no longer a place where you aren't allowed to talk (or at least mine isn't). Library class time is less about learning the various classifications of the Dewey Decimal System and more about integrating the Common Core standards and various other skills that have been delegated to us because there isn't enough time to cover them in the regular classroom. Today's librarian is much different as well.
I'm sure that like me, you wear a LOT of different hats at your school. I teach two hours of reading every day, followed by a full schedule of library classes most days. On top of that, I'm responsible for maintaining library materials, maintaining our school website, maintaining the school library website, coordinating the Accelerated Reader program, changing the outdoor marquee sign, overseeing our school's Program Review process, attempting to collaborate with teachers, sending news to our district and the local newspaper on a monthly basis, and many other jobs that I can't even think to list at the moment. I should also mention that like many of you, I do all of this without a library assistant.
When I started in the library, I thought I could do it all - write top notch library lesson plans, be an awesome teacher, get students excited about reading, and keep immaculate shelves. I quickly learned that all that sounds much better in theory than in practice. Along the way, I've learned to automate as many things as I possibly can. For instance, I rarely ever put a book on my shelves that has not been processed before it gets to me. I simply do not have time to process them. Yes, it's more expensive, but the time I save by not having to process every single book allows me to get books in my students' hands faster.
How and Why to go to Self Checkout
The same thing is true for letting the students check their own books out. It just makes my life easier. I print out bar code labels for every student in the school and stick them on colored index cards. Each homeroom has a different color index card. Next, I let the students decorate them (it helps them find their card faster in the stack), and then I laminate them so they'll last the entire school year.
When students come in to check out, I always stand at the computer and check the books in as soon as the students walk through the door. I used to have them put their books in the book drop, but I've found if you don't check them in immediately, you'll have lots more overdue notifications as they check out.
When the students are ready to check out, they come up to the circulation desk, scan their card, then scan their books. This frees me up to do what I need to be doing - helping students find books. They do make mistakes sometimes, and I'm OK with that. Books get checked out to the wrong student, late books don't get returned on time, and sometimes they get out the door with a book that isn't checked out at all.
I do the best I can to minimize the damage, but the fact of the matter is, I'd rather my students have a book in their hands than to not let them check out because they have a book that's a few days late. I do try to listen to the computer sounds, and if it makes the "bad noise", as we call it at my school, I try to come over and see what's going on. The students are actually pretty smart about it if you teach them what to look for.
There are situations when I do not allow them to check out, like if they have over 5 books total checked out, but I'm pretty lenient overall. I don't want to be seen as the cranky librarian who cares more about a book being returned on time than a student's excitement about reading. I always try to keep in mind the real reasons we are all here. Just a few things to think about as times continue to change...
Do you allow your students to check their own books out? What else do you do that helps save you time in your library? Share some ideas with us in the comments.