How Simplified Library Orientations Simplify Library Management

How Simplified Library Orientations Simplify Library Management - Simplifying my Library Orientation Lessons have had a profound effect on how I manage my school library: scheduling, facility organization, collection development, library promotion, and even my own professional development. Simplify your school library management using these ideas! #NoSweatLibraryI’ve written about my simplified Library Orientations with English Language Arts classes, that focus only on reading and narrative literature so students can check out their first Fiction book. Eliminating everything else from orientation gives students a pleasurable visit and makes ELA teachers avid library supporters.

Throughout the rest of the year I began to see that simplified Library Orientations also simplify Library Management: scheduling, facility organization, collection development, library promotion, and even my own professional development.


Establishing sustained, silent reading at library orientation so students can begin reading their book means students are more quickly engaged in the story, are reading more, and need to exchange finished books for new ones more often. Having DEAR Time during ensuing visits convinced my ELA teachers to schedule regular class library visits throughout the school year. Now we have an “ELA Book Exchange” day, every other week, for each grade level and for SpEd/ESL/Reading Improvement. I schedule a semester of visits and send event emails to teachers that automatically add the dates into their online calendars.

Sample of Library Schedule Tab worksheet

Library Schedule

This scheduling—fixed for ELA, flex for everyone else—has been a perfect solution for our library. ELA teachers are very adaptable if we have to change for another library need, but this regular visitation has allowed me to create short Library Lessons featuring library materials for each new ELA unit: expository text, persuasion, and poetry.


My goal for the organization and arrangement of library materials is to minimize the time it takes students to find something they need. Simplifying library orientations led to an ongoing library re-organization and re-arrangement that promotes reading, supports subject curricula, and makes the School Library more student-friendly.

Create Special Collections in the School Library With This Simple System - Special Collections make it easier for students to find a book that interests them. Teachers like them because they support curriculum and reduce the time students spend searching for books. Here's a simple way to create Special Collections. #NoSweatLibraryStudents like the Special Collections I feature at orientations because their smaller size and specific topics simplify finding a book that interests them. Teachers like these customized reading choices because they support curriculum and reduce the time students spend searching for books during visits.

Before creating my first special collection I thoroughly planned how to do it: I applied a Subject sticker under the spine label, a transparent color symbol or label protector over the Call Number spine label, and shelved the books together with colorful customized signs and shelf labels. This S-S-S Systemstickers, shelving, and signage—is simple and fast, and anyone can sort books for re-shelving with a quick glance at the sticker or color label … as in, “Judy, I need you to shelve all the ‘red’ label books.”

I’ve written about some of my Special Collections, but here’s a list of all of them, in the approximate order I created them over the years:

  • Texas State Reading List collections – the middle school Lone Star books and selected high school Tayshas books.
  • Careers – books pulled from other Dewey sections and shelved together under the 331.7 Dewey books; they’re easy to locate for pleasure reading and for the Careers class project.
  • Multicultural Fiction – I added stickers at the top of the spine, but decided not to separate these books from the rest of the fiction collection.
  • Graphic Novels—fiction and non-fiction plus Manga series.
  • Picture Books and Quick-Reads (easy-readers & books <100 pages) – I moved Picture Books, Quick-Reads, and Graphic Novels to adjacent shelves, and by featuring these Special Collections at ELL, SpEd and Reading Improvement orientations, I help these students progressively build language and reading skills.
  • Quick-Bios (books <100 pages) for ELL, SpEd and RI, and Memoirs, a curriculum topic for 8g ELA.
  • Spanish Language Fiction and Spanish Language Dewey collections to support our IB language program. Spanish teachers schedule a Library Lesson for students to learn about, and check out books from, these collections.
  • Multicultural collections in 973.04 for Multicultural U.S. History (Civil Rights movement, etc.) and on the shelf right below, 973.08 for Multicultural America (.08 is for “kinds of people”).
  • Fiction Subjects: Adventure, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor, Mystery, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Scary (Horror), Science Fiction, and Sports.
  • Special Social Studies Collections: GlobeTrekkers (fiction & Dewey sorted by continent), Totally Texas (Texas Fiction & 976.4), and Read America (Historical America fiction & 973)

DEAR Time during ELA visits prompted me to add additional furniture and create special seating areas in the library. I now have a chair or bench at the end of each aisle so students can look over books. Students can sit in a solitary chair to read by themselves or in one of the small group seating areas I created. I didn’t use library funds—I raided the district warehouse for discards, accepted donated chairs from parents, and donated a couple of my own. Even the theater teacher gave me seating items to clear out her props room, yet they are readily available when she needs to borrow them back for a performance!

Photo of special library seating at the end of certain aisles of books.

A few special seats


Simplified Library Orientations and Special Collections makes collection development easier because I know exactly what to look for in catalogs and book reviews. The first expenditures from my book budget are for Special Collections, so I can keep them fresh and inviting to students. With vendors I create a separate book list for each Special Collection. After ordering, I print out each collection list so when books arrive I can quickly separate and label one group at a time.

Create Special Collections to Simplify Book Ordering & Processing - Special Collections simplify book ordering and book processing, especially when you follow my simple S-S-S System for creating them. No call number or spine label changes needed! Learn more here! #NoSweatLibraryMy district has a standard for book processing, cataloging, and spine label call numbers, so using only stickers and transparent labels to identify Special Collection books means NO changes to call numbers or spine labels. In my automation system I’ve added Special Collection names to the Home Location field—the one that shows when a book is on the shelf or checked out. I use the global batch feature to set each name so I can scan all the new books in each collection at one time. An online catalog search displays the Home Location field so viewers know that a book is in a Special Collection location (or that it’s checked out). It’s also very easy to generate customized reports using that field:

  • Circulation statistics show which collections are most popular and need more books or which titles need additional copies.
  • Aged and low-circulation statistics allow me to quickly weed books throughout the year, one special collection at a time.


I’m not a bulletin board person. The 3 bulletin boards outside the library near each grade-level hallway were decorated at the start of school and left until the end of the school year. After customizing Library Orientations, I was inspired to create a bulletin board for each grade level that changes each grading period to coordinate with classroom activities and to promote reading and the library:

  • A sign with the ELA grade-level theme for each changing unit, along with pictures of books related to that theme.
  • A sign for the Social Studies grade-level theme, along with pictures of books to coordinate with classroom content. Each board has a pocket with grade-level Social Studies bookmarks so students can grab one if they need it.
  • Signs and Dewey-book pictures for subject area library visits scheduled for the grading period, along with signs or infographics of online services for research projects that bring those subject area classes to the library.
  • When students talk about a good book, I have them create a book review on a 3”x5” card and staple it on the board. It’s a great way to involve students and to update bulletin boards without a lot of extra work.

Learn more about Purposeful Library Bulletin Boards by joining my Mailing List and downloading the ebook!

Snip of several colorful topical bookmarks side-by-side

Examples of topical bookmarks

Changing the focus of orientations to reading also prompted me to create my own customized Reading Records and Series & Topical Fiction bookmarks. Using letter-size color card-stock I can create 6 bookmarks with lists of books on both sides. From a ream of card-stock I get ~3000 bookmarks for the same price as 500 from library suppliers. I also customize bookmarks for Lexiled reading lists for ELL/SpEd/Reading Improvement classes and for research project print & online resource lists.


I’ve written before about my science and social studies background, which helps for choosing non-fiction books and coordinating content reading into lessons, and except for mystery fiction, I even prefer reading non-fiction. Consequently, following orientation changes, my professional development included learning more about ELA standards, about reading levels for students and books, and about reading promotion. I’ve read professional books, attended workshops, and indulged in librarian blogs featuring books and reading promotion. I’m also more attentive to book reviews and recommendations from other librarians in my district and on the listservs. I’m still not as adept at reading promotion as someone who came from an ELA background, but every step forward improves student use of our library, the circulation of books, and most importantly, my ability to help students find a perfect book to read.

Logo for No Sweat Library on Teachers Pay Teachers
For products that support facility organization and library lessons check out No Sweat Library, my TPT store.

line of books laying down - indicates end of blog article

Join my mailing list to get a brief email about new posts on library lessons & management . You'll also gain access to my exclusive e-List Library of FREE resources!

A School Librarian’s Favorite Library Lesson Tool: Foldables

A School Librarian's Favorite Library Lesson Tool: Foldables - Students never tire of cut-and-paste activities, and hand-crafted foldables are often the best tool to help students compile and organize new information. Here are 4 foldables that are especially successful in my school library. #NoSweatLibraryEducators use a range of tools and resources to promote student learning. While we have many valuable digital tools, students never tire of good old cut-&-paste activities, and hand-crafted foldables are often the best tool to help students compile and organize new information. In the School Library, they also provide an opportunity for students to collaborate as they learn, and foldables provide the teacher with an excellent quick assessment for a daily grade.

The vast chasm of time since I was in school prevents me remembering if foldables were part of my education, but once I discovered them as a teacher, I continually add new ones to my Teaching Toolkit. I encourage you to try my 4 favorite foldables for your School Library Lessons—they stand the test of time even in our modern digitized world.


biocube for character study, adapted from ReadWriteThink.

Click to open larger image.

A very simple foldable is the biocube from ReadWriteThink. I first used this when a new 8g ELA teacher discovered our sizable section of Historical America books that support 8g American History classes. Instead of doing a whole class novel, she wanted each student to read an historical fiction book. I suggested that, rather than a standard book report, students could use higher-order thinking skills to create a BioCube Biography about a character in the book, and she was excited to try it.

Students use the ReadWriteThink biocube planning sheet  to gather and refine ‘biographic’ information about their book’s chosen character:

  • name and personality traits
  • personal background
  • time period and location of story
  • significance in U.S. History
  • biggest obstacle to overcome
  • important quotation from story.

I adapted the RWT cube to fit our preferences, and copied the 2”x 2”x 2” paper cube onto colorful paper. Students write the condensed information about their chosen character on each side of the cube, then cut out, fold, and paste the pattern together into a finished cube. They attach a 2-ft. length of string to the cube, tape the label with their name & book title on the string just above the cube, and the cubes are suspended from acoustic ceiling dividers with a bent paper clip. The project is fun for students and the hanging cubes are a real conversation starter for visitors to the ELA classroom.


Click to enlarge

This unique foldable book was introduced to me by a new 7g Social Studies teacher for a Jigsaw cooperative learning activity using our Texas Native Nations library books and kits. Created with one sheet of letter-sized color paper and a second ½ sheet of a contrasting color, the foldable has front & back covers, 2 inner flaps, plus 6 woven pages that are perfect for summarizing information: 2 on the front, 2 on the back, and 2 “secret hidden” pages, as shown in the picture below.

basketweave foldable finished & showing the "magic secret pages"

Photos courtesy of Mary Williams, Math Teacher, Midlothian HS, Midlothian, VA. For more great foldables, see her blog at

In the classroom, the teacher creates learning groups and students create their book. On the left inside flap they write the 4 cultural aspects of Texas Native Nations they will explore. I prepare for Library Lesson day by organizing materials so information for each Native Nation is on a separate table. When the class arrives, each student in a group goes to a different Nation table and works with students from other groups to summarize information about each cultural aspect down one column of their foldable.

After a suitable time, we have students rejoin their original learning group. Students record information about the other 5 Texas Nations onto their foldable columns as shared by their group members. Students then collaborate to summarize, across a row, the information for each cultural aspect and record it on the right inside flap. At the end of the period, every student has the information needed to pass the open assessment given the following day, during which they can use the basket-weave.

This foldable is perfect for jigsaw learning, plus every year a few students discern the connection between using a basket-weave for learning about Native Nations. Creating and using this foldable is so much fun that students keep it long after the unit is finished, which they wouldn’t if it were just a sheet of paper.


I learned about this foldable at an International Baccalaureate workshop for Middle Years Program Librarians. It is so flexible it can be used for any subject or purpose depending on which size paper is used and how it’s folded. The original student examples I saw—for an ELA Shakespeare project and a Social Studies project—were 8½″ x 14″ paper for the accordion and construction paper for the covers.

Creating ATL Toolbooks with 6g StudentsFor a series of Library Lessons on learning skills, we use 11″ x 17″ art drawing paper (stiff, but not as bulky as construction paper) cut in half lengthwise for the accordions, with the bottom third folded up for a pocket, and 3″ x 5″ index cards covered in bright color paper for the bookends.

As I show students how to cover the index cards with paper, I mention that this is exactly how the hardback covers are made for our library books. As we glue the end segments of the folded booklet to the inside of the cards, I remark that this is the same way the endpapers of a book are pasted to the book cover. These tidbits of information always prompt a couple kids to walk over to the bookshelves and grab a book to see what I’m talking about!

At ensuing library visits I give students a small memento at the end of the lesson to put in the corresponding pocket of their booklet to remind them of their learning. Some are useful, such as a large colorful paper clip, and some are fun, like a peppermint hard candy!

Teacher's ATL Toolbook

Click to enlarge

Teachers liked the student accordion booklets so much that I created IB-MYP Toolbooks for them, which hold small brochures of information about the program’s Approaches to Learning. They love using this compact tool during lesson planning to quickly determine which skills they can include.


Template for Teacher Flipbook

Click to enlarge.

The beauty of this foldable is that it can be as simple as a single sheet of letter-size paper glued down into an interactive notebook or as complex as the 4 sheets of 8½″ x 14″ paper I use to create my Library Guide for Teachers. The professional document did take considerable planning, but a student project can be much simpler.

An easy way for students to create this flipbook is to fold a sheet of paper so the edge of the top section is offset about ½″ above the bottom edge of the back section. Add an outside page so the bottom sheet extends below the first by the same offset and fold so the top sheet ends above the first by the same offset. The tops get progressively smaller as you add sheets, so there is a limit to how many sheets can be used effectively. Once the sheets are tightly creased, glue each inner sheet to an outer sheet at the crease, or staple all the sheets together at the crease (you need an extended arm stapler for this).

My Teacher Flipbook for Library & Technology ServicesFor younger middle school students we keep it very simple—just 1 or 2 sheets—and the teacher or I designate what students will write/draw on each flipsheet, but older students can plan their own publication depending on how much space they need for each part of their project. To make it especially eye-catching, students can use different colors of paper, as I often do with my Guide.


These 4 foldables have been very popular with students, and there are others I’ve used for my Library Lessons. A simple Google Image search for “foldables” can net any teacher or school librarian a myriad of great foldables to try.

Foldables have been so successful in my middle School Library that I can’t imagine they’ll ever fall out of favor. Even with the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, there will always be a place in education for simple cut-and-paste activities.

line of books laying down - indicates end of blog article

Join my 7mailing list to get a brief email about new posts on library lessons & management . You'll also gain access to my exclusive e-List Library of FREE resources!