Tips for organizing and storing your classroom library

The Question:
My summer goal is organizing all the books in my classroom library, but I have no idea where to start! Any suggestions or containers that have held up over the years?
The Answers:
Teresa Brown I bought baskets from Really Good Stuff and they’ve held up 2 years now…despite my third and fourth graders being VERY rough with them.
Bridgette Lewis 
Me as well, I have used colored dish pans from the dollar stop and Wal-mart. They last a long time.
Carol Scott Hunt 
I purchase small moving boxes from a local storage place. The boxes I buy have built in handles. I want a box that I can easily move. If the box is huge…it will be extremely heavy.
Amy Smith
 My mentoring teacher has a huge filing cabinet she files her books in… everything according to curriculum and theme 🙂 It’s very helpful I am starting to do that myself. Good luck!
Teresa Nordstrom Sanchez
 There is a really good inventory template on Mcrosoft that you can download. Its meant for organizing movies, but I use it for my books. I type up and alphabetize all of the titles so I know what I have and I give them a category. Also, I have mine in those basket bins and I use sentence strips to separate and label the themes or genres. The sentence strips stick out between the books on top. I pull out and use the books that I need in my classroom library or centers and them I make sure to put them back.
Megan Chapman 
I also bought colored baskets from Really Good Stuff. They’ve held up for 5 years now. I also have 4th-5th graders sort my books for me a couple times a year.
Dory Davis Smith 
I started with a list of my main themes, and put them in a big cabinet in groups: Farm, Seasons, Social Skills, Health… I also have groups of favorite authors and holidays. I wrote the topics on long cards that would stick out beyond the books, so I could find them quickly. I also have a miscellaneous section of books that I like, but I am not sure where to plug them in.
Suzanne Giaimo
 Dish pans work wonderfully well. They’re easy to move, and hold up like iron.
Sarah Hudson
 My new philosophy is Less is More. I am tired of having closets filled with books that we never get to. I now keep a small basket of my favorites, multiple copies of the old standard favorites, 10 or so different books for each theme, some math-related, some science, some social studies, and the books they get from our school library that we keep in the classroom. It’s still about 300 books, but it’s not the thousand I used to have. It’s overwhelming otherwise, to me and the students!
Lisa Marie Combs-Presley
I put mine into plastic bins from the dollar store (think dish pans) and I sorted them by the months of the year that I would most likely read them.
Katy Chapman
 I have all of mine organized by theme in very large ziploc bags. That way I could pull out the theme we were doing easily and put away what we were no longer using in a classroom cabinet, when I was teaching. The bags were organized in the cabinet from the beginning of the school year to the end of the year as well.
Heather Leckey 
The most important thing to remember is to have ALL your books out for your students to read. Don’t store them all away. The only ones I put away are holiday ones and I have a special bin for those that changes out monthly. I have 500+ books out in my library for my students to read at any time 🙂
Jessie Miller 
I organize mine by category, based on what I teach, in my cabinets. I have “teacher only” books within each category. Those are special books that I don’t want my Kinders trashing. Then I pull out a limited selection for our classroom library and rotate books every month. My cabinet categories are: Holidays, seasons, math, science, ABC’s, fairytales, animals, community helpers, friendship, social skills, (themes) oceans, pirates, pumpkins, apples, insects, (author collections), Dr Seuss, Eric Carle, Mo Willems, and my misc. catch all – fiction. My classroom library has the following categories: Math, Science, Theme of the Month, Alphabet, Rhyming, and Fiction. I’m probably missing some categories in the above list. Oh well! Hope this helps 🙂
Lynne Murray Smith is a free online filing system. Its awesome
Cheryl Cameron
 I bought brightly colored bins from the dollar store. They’ve lasted 6 years of hard use and show no wear. We use Reading Counts, so mine are in bins by Lexile level.
Sue MacAvoy Sweet 
I know what you are talking about… I had so many books that the kiddos never even got to use, just because they were not available to them. I decided I either needed to come up with a way to rotate the books on a regular basis, or get rid of a bunch of books. My solution cost me no money at all… Do you know the cardboard boxes that Walmart sells folders in at back to school time? I asked if I could have some of the empty ones, and they said take as many as I wanted. I currently have one for each month, and I sorted my books following LA themes, as well as seasonal, science and social studies. These are the books that I rotate each month onto the kids book corner shelf. Once I sorted all of those books, any books that were left over I sorted by their title, so a book like “little lions” would go with the month that we do “Ll” . Also, I reinforced the bottoms of the boxes with clear packing tape on the outside. I have had these boxes for at least 5 years, and don’t see them needing to be replaced anytime soon. Of course I also have other books like my Eric Carle collection, bugs/insects, community helpers,.etc, and I also have my “teaching books” – those that I use for introducing new concepts. I have a lot of teacher friends who have used this idea and they like it too! Good luck!
Bethany Charlebois Arsenault 
Ikea! They have these really sturdy clear containers with tops for summer storage. I also laminate my labels and attach them with velcro for easy swap out 🙂
Lauren C. Harkess
 Walmart has sturdy dish tubs for 2 bucks! I filled my bookcase with about 12 of them and they are great! They are a cute red color, too.
Melissa McLaughlin Muralles 
I have a system and can email you pics. I have over 1000 books out in my classroom for my kindergarteners in classroom library and another 6-700 that I rotate from cabinets throughout the year. They are numbered and in book baskets by theme and/or genre/author.. Etc. email me at if you would like me to send it to you. It took me a whole summer to do– but it’s so worth it!
Latisia Craig wonderful site with accompaning app for smart phones, just scan the isbn and it levels and it is a way for the students to check out books and you don’t have to fool with cards
Karen Kerns
 I have baskets of books, but mine are organized by level, so my kids know where to look for best fit books on their level. I also keep books that I read organized by months in a bookcase that the kids don’t use. I tend to teach the same themes the same months of the year, so it’s an easy way to find things.
Adrienne Choma Sodemann 
I have tons of books and I was frustrated that I couldn’t use them all. I organize them by theme. I use magazine boxes to sort them, labeling the front. If there’s too many to fit, I just stack the rest next to the magazine box. I keep them at home since there are so many and my room is small. I bring up to school about 8 themes at a time. Use the Daily 5 “Read to self”, to let the kids “shop” for and return one theme book a day. I keep these in those staking plastic baskets, labeled with the theme. I have taught 20 years and love this system because books become a central part of teaching again!
Dawn M. Burns-Morants
 I use tubs and put colored dot labels with numbers on each book. For instance, green dots are for fiction and each book is in a green tub numbered to match its category. I have animal stories, family books, etc. The kindergarteners have had no problem knowing where to put the books when they are done reading them. If the book has a green number two dot, they go over to the second green tub and put it away.
Erica Butler 
I use the Sterilite tubs that are white. I’ve had them for 4 years now and not one has broken. I like the middle size, but I use the small size for my leveled guided reading books. The Sterilite tubs come in other colors that you can buy at Target seasonally, but I just stuck with the white so everything matched. I do have some cheap dollar store bins, but that was a mistake because half of them have broken in the last 2 years. I just needed some bins fast and that’s what I found. As for organizing all the books, I have many different themes. I have a basket for most major holidays, ABC books, math books, etc… I also have books for some of our science and social studies content, like animals, plants, weather, all about me, friendship, etc… And then I have baskets for several authors that I consider “favorites” and have many of their books. I also have an “animal fiction” basket with books about animals, a generic fiction or read aloud basket, and a generic informational books basket. I also have a basket with magazines and student made books. Plus I have 6 baskets full of leveled books that our district gave us this year. I used colored dot labels for my baskets, but since I have so many different themes for my baskets, I also have stickers on top of the dots. The dots are categorized- red is my “favorite author” books, blue is fiction, yellow is ABC or math, green is non-fiction, and orange is holiday books. It was a lot of work but now when I get new books (which is all the time!), I can figure out exactly where they go!
Laurie Chmarney
 I have some organized by guided reading level with a colored dot system and then I also have some tubs by theme. The theme books, I print out labels and put a piece of tape over it once attached to the book. I use the lakeshore tubs but they can be expensive if you want to get several. You can try a plastic dishpan, which are $2.00 or less at Target, (I am trying that out right now). Also I rotate my books, I keep them seperated in my closet by themes and I store them in magazine holders. The books that don’t fit, I just put them right next to the appropriate box on the shelf. If you have any questions, just message me!
Kristie Mang Leiner 
I use magazine holders from Ikea and categorize them. I sort them not only by month but by theme (ie fall, bears, weather, etc.). This is something my LA instructor let us in on many years back and my books have been in order for years!
Laurie Chvatal 
I got a old filing cabinet and then used the gallon size ziploc bags the kids bring in and wrote the name of category on each bag. If there are more than one bag per category I numbered them. Example. First Day of School #1. Then from there I categorized all the books by seasons or month. My collection starts with first day of school and Kindergaren all the way to End of the Year. After the subjects, I have an author collection. I hope this helps.
Tammy Wood
 I used those black plastic coke crates & organized them by books about friends, families, seasons, etc. I put labels on the end of the crates with pictures so the kids can recognize what kind of book it if they can’t read the label.
Great question! I just said to myself as I packed up my room for the summer that I REALLY needed to reorganize my books this summer. My huge closet is overflowing and I have outgrown my old system. Thanks for the great ideas! I, too, have so many books that we could never read all of them in one year, and I have been afraid to share all of them with the children because so many kids are so rough on them. Thinking I will have to try sharing more of my treasures with them.
Ginna Williams 
I used color stickers and sorted by theme (community helpers, holidays, etc) and kept Dr. Suess, Clifford, etc together. I use milk cartons (I have 15) because not only do they stack sideways as bookshelves in my classroom but they also stack when I have to pack them up at the end of the school year to store at home.
Melea Fields Kercheval 
I have about 1600 books to keep track of in my Kindergarten Library. I store them in large rubbermaid tubs. Each book has a number on the back (I don’t recommend a sticker because they eventually fall off-I use a sharpie). The number shows what category/tub to put it back in. My parent volunteers are able to get out books and put them back for me. I have the books listed on Excel with name of book and author. It works for me!

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