Library Organization

OrganizationHow do you organize your shelves?  I did a major overhaul of my library this summer (I'm not finished), and I had a hard time deciding exactly what to do.  This past school year was my first at this school and I inherited a mess, quite frankly.  The collection hadn't been properly weeded in my lifetime, if I were guessing.  The Easy collection had so many books crammed on the shelves that the students couldn't even look for a book.  Not to mention, books were impossible to put away.

The Fiction section was (and still is for the time being) organized by the first letter of the author's last name, making everything really hard to find.  The Nonfiction section was full of hundreds of outdated books, like a pro basketball collection from 1994.  The Biography section included books on people who were famous when I was in middle school (about 20 years ago.)

I do not have a library assistant, so I depend on students to help shelve my books.  I am thankful for any help I can get, but as I started doing inventory, I noticed just how out of order everything really was.  It was clear to me that I was going to have to spend some time cleaning up my library's collection.  I have spent numerous days this summer weeding, reorganizing, and getting things in proper order.

Things look much better, and I've done some reorganizing to make books easier for the students to find.  In my Fiction section, I cleared off some shelves for series of chapter books (like Dan Gutman's My Weird School, 39 Clues, Nancy Drew, Magic Tree House, etc.)  The old configuration had series sprinkled throughout the other books with the same first letter of the author's last name.  Students destroyed the shelves looking for certain series and the books were just plain hard to find.  I have marked all the series books with a neon pink sticker to help students shelve them in the proper location.  This will make the regular Fiction shelves much easier to navigate as well.  I'm also going to try a new easy chapter book section for students who are just starting to read chapter books.

Do you have any suggestions for ways to improve my shelves?  How do you deal with elementary library organization problems?  Leave your helpful hints in the comments.




  1. Rhonda Lowry says

    I genre-fied my library this year. Actually I'm still in the process, but like you I have no library assistant, and have genrefying the library has really helped my time with the students. When they want a "scary" book they no longer have to go hunt for it, as they are all in the same area. I have put fiction and nonfiction together if they fit a certain genre to simplify my time and the students' as well.

  2. says

    I am a new librarian, working on a certification. I have been a classroom teacher for many years. My K-6 library has not had a full-time librarian for at least the last 5 years or more. I am working on getting the bar codes on the books and registering the books in the computer for easy checkout. Until then, I am checking books out the old-fashion way using book cards where students write their name on the card in the pocket. There is not card catalog that I see and I am having to learn the system of how the books are organized. I have found that I am going to have to recruit some 5th and 6th graders to help organize and put books back on the shelves. Hopefully, I can take some of your suggestions to help me bring this library into the 21st century! Thanks.

  3. Nicole Lavinder says

    I have also been a classroom teacher for the past 13 years and moving into the media coordinator world. I have inherited a disaster area – the shelves are broke , books are willy nilly everywhere and the dust bunnies have dust bunnies!

    I Appreciate the idea of organizing by genres. Also, do any use Accelerated Reader and if so, do you separate your AR from non-AR?

    • Sherry Copeland says

      I have 18 years experience working with AR. Please don’t separate them, books should be books. Label the AR books with a color dot om the spine and put an AR label with level etc. on the inside of the book. Teach kids to look for their color dot. With all the tests that are available now most of your books will be AR. Public libraries aren’t organized by AR and neither is my library!

  4. Becky Johnson says

    I am in the process of doing this as well, and my first step is seperating my series books. The students love it. My question: How many books in a series before you place it in the “series” section? I have many books that are 2-3 book series, and I’m not sure how to handle that….

    • Jocelyn says

      Becky, I usually put smaller series on the regular shelves (not series book shelves), but I put them separately. So if I have 3 B shelves, one of them may have smaller series on it (together). I’m not sure that made sense, but I hope so.

  5. Emily says

    My library had to be packed up at the end of the school year due to tornado damage earlier this spring. I now have a blank slate (yay! because I inherited a slight mess a few years ago), but I’m at a loss as to where to start when I unpack boxes. Any suggestions would be helpful.


  6. Nicole says

    I have all my series shelved with the regular fiction books, but I put the series in baskets & typed the complete series & copyright dates on colored paper & laminated each before attaching. It breaks up the look of the shelves because those books are front facing & the labels will help students know the next book in the series.

      • Kathy Cowell says

        I, too, have done this, but I don’t worry about keeping them in any certain order in the baskets. I use various sizes depending on the serie’s size. Graphic novels are kept separate in their own display case. I weed as I organize. Smaller series I stand on the shelf where they go for those mannequin shoppers. I also try to stand a duplicate on the top shelf to help students find the series.

    • Nicole says

      I have photos I was going to post, but I am not seeing how to do that. My baskets are just cheap Dollar General baskets – the small baskets were 2/$1 and the large baskets were 1//$1. It has helped my circulation a ton! The students love it, but some long time teachers are not very happy about the change, but they are slowly adjusting. :)

  7. Julie Herr says

    I have a question about grouping books by series. We have pulled off the series books but have grouped them by the name of the series instead of the author. It makes it much easier for the kids to find. However, we are at a loss in terms of what to do when an author has more than one series i.e. Rick Riordan. We are a public school library run by parent volunteers. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!

  8. Tess Hoverman says

    We have sorted out 90 shelves of series books, 3 complete rows. The kids love having them numbered. We have used a simple label printer like P-Touch to print out numbers which I place on top of the spine. As our series collection has grown, we ordered extra colors so that we keep series subsets together yet tell them apart.
    For example, Geronimo Stilton is very popular, but there are Cavemice, Spacemice, Thea Stilton, Creppella, Graphic Novels and more. The main series is numbered with a white label, blue for Thea, green for Spacemice, Yellow for Creepella. When I ran out of colors, I repeat with a 01, 02, etc.

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