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.

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A Personal Management Strategy for School Librarians

A Personal Management Strategy for School Librarians - Are you overwhelmed by all the “stuff” in a library and the "things" you have to do to serve teachers and students? You may need a Personal Management Strategy! Read on to see how I developed mine to make smarter decisions faster to achieve my goals. #NoSweatLibraryMaking the most of our time is difficult when we’re pulled in so many different directions. My first two years as a new school librarian I tried applying what I’d learned in library school, but I was overwhelmed by all the “stuff” in a library besides books on the shelves—documents, equipment, supplies, tools, furniture—as well as “things I had to do” to serve students and teachers. I needed a way to organize that which was not already organized by the Dewey Decimal System and the class periods of my school day.

My 3rd year as a librarian a new principal—an organizational genius—suggested I first develop a Personal Management Strategy as a step toward managing the library program. So I asked myself, ‘What personal strategies can help with library management?’ and I determined 3 areas for personal management: content organization, time management, and personal philosophy.


I began organizing content by analyzing AASL and my State’s standards and guidelines for school libraries. That may seem an odd way to start, but those documents helped me encapsulate what I do and why I do it. As a result, I created 6 organization categories: Budget, Collection, Facility, Lessons, Library Promotion, and Professional Development. These categories became the structure for my thought processes, my filing systems (digital & print), and my library program.

I  color-coded each category and articulated what belonged in them:

  • Budget (hot pink) = budget/funding documents, purchasing information, and booklists for purchase.
  • Collection (blue) = cataloging, circulation, inventory, and book labels.
  • Facility (tan) = aides, bulletin boards, reading promotion (including book trailers & bookmarks), makerspace, physical layout, and signs/shelf labels.
  • Lessons (green) = lesson planner, standards documents, library info lessons, and other lessons with school subjects.
  • Library Program Administration (red) = informational handouts, presentations, reports, and library administrative handbook.
  • Professional Development (purple) = meetings & trainings, and state/district appraisal documents.

Improve School Library Management with this Helpful Tool - This School Librarian Handbook is a comprehensive content management tool for a busy librarian. The expandable document is an annotated Table of Contents, organized according to the policies & procedures typical for a school library program. Get it at No Sweat Library, my TeachersPayTeachers store. #NoSweatLibraryThese categories fit nicely with the 5 facets of a School Librarian: as information specialist, as instructional partner, as experienced teacher, as program administrator, and as education leader. I even purchased paper, file folders, and binders in these colors to make it easier to identify print materials on my bookshelf and in my file drawers.

To keep my content and decisions about it organized, I created an administrative handbook, an annotated Table of Contents organized by my categories. My expandable document grows to meet my needs. If you need a handbook like this, you can find it in No Sweat Library, my TeachersPayTeachers store.


A busy librarian needs a time management tool to prioritize daily actions and meet deadlines. For me, lists bring order to chaos faster than any other tool, and spreadsheets are flexible enough to create different types of lists for different time management needs. I created a Librarian Checklists” spreadsheet document with a worksheet tab for each different list.

A “Librarian Checklists” spreadsheet document with a worksheet tab for each different list.

At the beginning of the school year I have many tasks to prepare myself and the library before teachers and students arrive on campus. A chronological list is perfect to organize everything and help me accomplish it in a timely manner. In my Librarian Checklists I have one tab for my ‘alone’ days before teachers arrive and another tab for the week of staff development when teachers (but no students) are on campus. Here’s an example of what’s on those two lists:

  • BOY ABCs (before teachers arrive)
    • Records Day – list of updates to all records for teacher/room changes in automation system, library Website, library passes, maps; update teacher information documents & reprint.
    • Teacher Materials Day – list of library items to check out & deliver to teacher classrooms; troubleshoot, clean, recharge library & teacher AVD equipment.
    • Library Day – list of tasks to arrange library, update signage & bulletin boards, process summer magazines & new books, update substitute folder & aide materials.
  • BOY 123+ (during Staff Development Week)
    • Update yearly goals/objectives for library program & PD.
    • Troubleshoot/recharge student A/V/D equipment (calculators, cameras).
    • Schedule with ELA teachers for orientations & book exchanges; schedule w/ teachers for student checkout of calculators for Algebra & cameras for yearbook.
    • Prepare PPT announcements for new school year (cafeteria menus, clubs, etc).

An Eisenhower Matrix devised by Steven Covey from a quote by former President Dwight EisenhowerAnother Librarian Checklists tab is a “To Do” list of tasks I want to accomplish during the year, such as facility changes, collection tasks, and other library or school goals as detailed in my Strategic Planning document. I use an Eisenhower Matrix (devised by Steven Covey from a quote by former President Dwight Eisenhower) to classify tasks into color-coded quadrants based on Importance and Urgency.

Sample of Library Schedule Tab worksheetMy Library Use tab is my Library Schedule. It’s a calendar of the school year, listing week numbers and dates for each grading period down the left, and a cell for each day of the week across the top. In the cross cells I record who will be in the library (or if I’ll be gone to a district meeting). I add Comment boxes to give details of lessons or library use, and I also insert Comments to remind me of timely tasks or events, such as sending my Media Minute email each month. This quick email of library news is sent to the whole staff and can be read in 1-minute or less, with a single link to additional information.

To complete my time management tool I have 3 additional Librarian Checklists tabs:

  • School Schedules Tab has a copy of our master class-schedule chart, customized with color-coded teacher-conference and subject-PD periods so I know when I can visit a teacher in their classroom for lesson collaboration.
  • Weeding & Inventory Tab has a chart of Dewey Subjects/Classes and Fiction Subjects with adjoining columns that show a time frame for weeding: date of last weeding, date for next weeding, and date of last inventory.
  • EOY (End-Of-Year) Tab for the last month of school is another chronological list of procedures for collecting library materials from students and teachers, and closing the library for the summer.

I tend to be a procrastinator, but these 7 worksheet lists keep me on-track and it’s very convenient to have my time management lists compiled into a single spreadsheet document.

The Librarian Checklists is part of my Librarian Administrative Tools product in No Sweat Library, my TeachersPayTeachers store.


I also needed to re-clarify my own Personal Philosophy about the library program. I decided that students are the reason I am where I am, so my personal philosophy became “keep students, not the library, as the priority, and everything else will fall into place.” My personal philosophy helps me make wise professional decisions (as library director Dr. Salerno put it) that have a positive impact on students.

One of my wisest library management decisions was to eliminate overdue book fines. They just didn’t serve any positive purpose:

  • Kids don’t return overdue books because they can’t pay the fine in order to check out a new book, so kids weren’t reading and books weren’t circulating.
  • Even with regular book exchanges, the due date passed, and teachers didn’t always allow kids to leave class to return a book. Our kids rarely had time to go to lockers between classes.
  • Poorer kids stared at their coins, trying to decide if they’d have money for lunch (or dinner on the way home) if they paid the fine; well-off kids didn’t care—they’d bring a $20 bill for a 20¢ fine and expect me to make change.
  • Offering “fine forgiveness” incentives to get books returned is totally unfair to kids who’ve been paying fines.
  • In my case, our public library doesn’t charge fines, even for adults, so why would a public school charge kids?
  • Collecting fines was time-consuming work with little benefit, especially if an entire class is checking out books during the last 10 minutes of a period.

I don’t think fines “build responsibility” in students and I’m adamantly against fines to “raise money for the library.” That is an adult responsibility, not one for kids. And according to my personal philosophy, a kid is more important than an overdue fine. My principal agreed with all of this, so we quit charging fines for overdue books.

I have effective ways to get back overdue books, and here are some of them:

  • When a students says they returned the book, I have them check the shelves to see if it’s there, because sometimes I do miss checking them in (and of course I blame the computer!).
  • In our automation system, we use a field in the student’s profile for their ELA teacher. For regular Book Exchange visits near the end of a grading period, I run overdue notices by grade and sort by teacher. When the first class arrives I give teachers their notices, and they distribute them throughout the day just before kids browse for books. Many kids have their overdues in their lockers so they retrieve and return them during their browsing time.
  • I have kids put an overdue notice in their shoe. (This great idea from a student.) When they get home and take off their shoes, they see the note and it reminds them to put the book by their shoes to bring back the next day.
  • Overdue Bookmarks - Join my mailing list to get these FREE from my e-List Library!

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    I write down the overdue book title on a funny bookmark so every time they open their new book to read, it reminds them to bring back that overdue one. (Yes, they can still check out a book with an overdue. A kid is more important than a book.)

  • I give kids the library phone to call their home or mobile phone and leave a reminder message. (They think this is hilarious when I tell them that’s how “Ms P” reminds herself of things!)
  • For severe cases I have them call their Mom. (This is especially effective if they have to call her at work—she’s not happy, but the kid’s in the doghouse, not me!)

I’ve never regretted my “wise professional decision” to eliminate overdue book fines. It builds better PR with parents and students, and simplifies considerably the daily demands on my time and sanity.

Overwhelmed by Chaos in Your School Library? - Here's how School Librarians can improve their personal management strategy and take their school library from chaos to order. I focus on 3 areas: content, time, and decision-making philosophy. #NoSweatLibraryLooking back, I can say that developing my Personal Management Strategy was an important step to better library management.

Once I’d organized my field of work, directed my daily activities, and confirmed what’s important to me as an educator and a school librarian, I had a method to make smarter decisions faster in order to achieve my goals.

Only after clarifying my Personal Management could I turn my attention to fully conceptualizing the management of my school library program.

line of books laying down

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