How to Get Library Books Returned at the End of the Year

Advice for school librarians and media specialists
As we prepare to wrap up another school year we are faced with one of our biggest challenges: getting all those library books returned! I have tried many strategies over the years with varying results. In this post, I am going to share with you some different tricks and ideas that will (hopefully) help get those books turned in before the last day of school.

Award prizes  

Advice for school librarians and media specialists

Award some kind of class prize or award for the first class in each grade level that returns all their books. Bribery works! Suggestions:
  • Eat lunch in the library
  • Eat lunch outside in a special spot
  • Make ice cream sundaes for the classes. If you do all the classes at the same time you can set up an assembly line and it goes pretty quickly. 
  • Instead of sundaes, you can give out freeze pops, ice cream sandwiches etc.
  • Popcorn and a movie
  • Have an outdoor reading day. Take the students outside, find some shade or put up some umbrellas. Play some music, provide refreshments and plenty of books to read. 
  • Offer extra time for the classes to come in and play board games or to do a special STEM or makerspace activity.

Get teachers involved

Advice for school librarians and media specialists

Give a prize not only to the classes that have returned all of their books but to the teacher as well. Offer to cover their recess or lunch duty, provide an extra planning time or a gift certificate to Starbucks or Target. You might be surprised how competitive they can be knowing they get an extra thirty minutes of planning to work on their end of year paperwork.

Advice for school librarians and media specialists

When a student returns all of their library books you can put their name into a raffle. Suggestions of things to raffle off:
  • Keep your display posters from the Scholastic Book Fair and raffle them off. 
  • Restaurant or movie passes if you can get them donated
  • Have students choose from a treasure box of small toys, candy, gifts. 
  • Ask the PTO to purchase prizes
  • Free books. Purchase the bargain packs or bruised books from Scholastic Book Clubs or purchase books from the book fair. Buy some extra copies of a really popular title and keep them to use as raffle prizes.


Advice for school librarians and media specialists
Make sure everyone in the school knows how many books still need to be returned. Break it down by grade level and teacher. If possible create some type of display in the front of the school by the main office. This is the place that sees the most traffic in the school, from both parents and students. Make it colorful and eye-catching. 

Other ideas
Advice for school librarians and media specialists

These are for the more adventurous librarians. Which I will be the first to admit, I am not one! 

Make an offer to the students. If all books are returned by a certain date (or a certain percentage of books) offer to:
  • dye your hair a certain color
  • throw a pie in your face
  • kiss a pig
  • duct tape yourself to the wall
What do you do to encourage students to return their books? Comment and let us know. 

Advice for school librarians and media specialists

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