Upper Grade Classroom Library

Our library runs the whole back wall.
I *love* books and I love being able to offer my students as many books as possible.  Over the years, I've collected a few and they're treasures to me.  I know we lose some and many finally fall apart, but it's where I choose to spend the bulk of the money I set aside for the classroom.  Plus, I read it, my daughter reads it, and usually, even my husband will read it.  Clearly: it's worth it!

Again, over time, as my library has changed and grown, so has the way we've organized it.  I spent the first half of my career in primary, where most books were in baskets by type (Clifford books, books about space, ect).  
I do have these paint sticks to separate letters but only a few remain.  Ha!  NOT necessary with the labels.
When I moved to fifth, I really wanted more of a real-life situation for them to find books.  I did a LOT of thinking and reading (buy THIS book and read it and your life will be changed).  I can honestly say that I love how it's organized and how easily accessible it is for my students.

So what works best for us?  We primarily organize by author's last name.  

This makes it SO easy for us to find a specific book and it also makes it a breeze for students to shelve the books later.  

Also, when I say alphabetical, I mean all the "A" books are together but they aren't alphabetized withIN that letter.  If that makes sense.  Organizing like that might cause me to lose my mind.

A big game changer was when we added THESE labels from my friend Molly over at Lessons with Laughter.  My friends and I worked late nights in the summer to label all the books (and I actually need to print more because new books= new labels).  I can't even remember ever NOT having these because they have helped students organize and find books so much.  Highly recommend!

One thing to mention (and I'll write about it soon!) is that we do Donalyn Miller's 40 Book Challenge.  It encourages students to read books across a variety of genres, which has been wonderful with my kids!  Some of the genres are new to them or not previously explored and I found that students needed help with recommendations.

Because of that, I do have some books in labeled baskets.  My labels come from Literacy for Big Kids and you can find them HERE
It's a rare sight that the cart is empty!  My cart is from Target a few years ago.
When students need a new book, they can go back and browse.  It's always open.  When they're done with one, they drop it in this cart and the class librarians (a job they apply for) put them back.

I don't have a check in or check out system and I know that might cause me to lose books.  I get it.  But, I just can't stay on top of any one system and after a decade of trying, I gave up and don't regret it.  So there.  Ha!
I love these Ikea bookcases so much.  Would definitely recommend!
As for book shelves, I had Target ones for several years.  Honestly, they held up great but eventually just couldn't take the wear and tear.  I believe I had them for four years.  Last summer, I'd saved and saved and finally bought THESE from Ikea.  I'll never go back.  They're so durable and are a dream to wipe clean.

As our collection grows, I have to make choices.  Sometimes I'll remove duplicates or triplicates (although I still keep them in a cabinet in case friends want to read the same book at the same time).  I'll pull out books that are falling apart or old.  Some I donate but the majority I just stash.

I remember Donalyn saying (or writing? I did get hear her speak at Teachers College once!) that children should live in a "book flood."  That is one of my driving goals.


  1. I would like to hear more about the 40 Book Challenge tracking/rings. You mentioned it another post and I adored Donalyn's book and I am trying to figure out how to implement the challenge with my students. I work for gifted kids once a week...Thanks!

    1. What a beautiful classroom library! Do you happen to have any genre labels that you put directly onto the book?