5 Tips for a Smoother Book Check-Out

school library book check-out

Are you struggling to get all of your students' books checked out in a timely fashion? Do you feel like you are running in a million different directions and not able to answer everyone's question? Have you ever felt like pulling your hair out at the end of a class? I know I have!

Thankfully I have been blessed with an amazing library assistant, so most of the time there are two of us to handle book check-out. However, the past couple of years she is constantly pulled to cover classrooms. So I am often by myself and have felt the frustration many times. There is so much to do during this time other than checking out books:  help students search the catalog, locate books, provide readers advisory and answer any other questions the kids have. Add in phone calls from the office and teachers popping in to look for materials and you end up with a very chaotic time.

I have come up with a few strategies and ideas that you can implement to help ease the chaos. And since we are approaching the end of the year you might want to just keep these in mind for the start of next school year.

1. Use a laser pointer


This is a brilliant idea. Another librarian suggested this to me a couple years ago and I wish I had known about it sooner. Most of the questions that I answer are about the location of a book. If I can't physically show the student where the book is then I will describe it's location for them. "It's on the bookshelf next to the printer, the third shelf down from the top. It's to the right of the football books. In the blue bin to the left of the green bin." Instead of saying all of this, I can take my laser pointer and point directly to the spot they need to go. This is a huge timesaver, especially when you are stuck behind the circulation desk.

2. Ask 3 then me

school library lesson plans
This is a classroom management strategy that can be used in many different situations, not just book check-out. It's fairly simple. Teach the students to ask 3 of their classmates their question first. If they can not answer the question then ask the librarian or teacher. You can utilize this strategy during your centers or other activities you have going on in the library as well. Most students will pick this up quickly. There is a good chance they may already do this with their classroom teacher too.

3. Two check-out lines 

school library lesson plans

Have students form two check-out lines at the circulation desk. One line is just for book check-out. The other line is just for questions. This will help you to multi-task more efficiently - check-out books and answer questions.

4. Dewey cheat sheets

Place some posters around the library with some of the most popular Dewey categories your students ask you for. So when you get asked for the tenth time where the football books are, you can direct students to look at the sheet. 

Of course, it is always helpful to have clear labeling and signage. But this is just another tool that you can use to help students find what they need independently.

5. Book request sticky notes

School library lesson plans

Use this idea when students request a specific book and you do not have the time to go find the book for them. When a student asks for a book, tell them that you will have to find the book and give it to them at a later time. Then grab a sticky note. Write the student's name, their teacher's name and the book title on the note. Then, when you get a chance to pull the book you can take the sticky note and put it right on the book.

And did you know that you can print on sticky notes too? You can! It's really quite simple. For the book request notes, I created a template with the information on it that will need to be filled out (student name, teacher, book title, call #). Once the template was printed out, I placed 6 sticky notes in the boxes on the paper. Then I put the paper back in the printer and voila! I have 6 sticky notes ready to go. I printed off a stack of these and have them in a folder so when I need them I can just grab the sticky note and jot down the information (or have the student do it).

print on a sticky note
If you have never printed on sticky notes before, you can search Pinterest for some tutorials on how to do it. Or you can read this blog post that I found. This is the one I used to help me figure it out. 

You can download this free editable template to use for your own sticky notes. You can delete the text boxes and add your own text as well. To download the template click the box below.


There are other things you can try as well. 
  • Parent volunteers
  • Stagger your check-out times
  • Make check-out a library center
  • Put stuffed animals and other props on your bookshelves for the different Dewey sections
  • Put more popular books/series in different colored bins. This will help students to find these books easier.
I hope this post gave you some ideas that will help make your check-out time go smoother. Do you have any tips to add? Please drop a comment and share with us. 

school librarybook check-out






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