5 Tips for a Smoother Book Check Out at Your School Library

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 because of the check out process? I know I have! In this post, you will learn 5 tips, ideas, and tricks to help you and your school library have a smoother book check out.

Create a smoother book check out at your school library by implementing one or more of these simple and practical tips.

Thankfully I have been blessed with an amazing library assistant, so most of the time there are two of us to handle book checkout. 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.

Why We Need a Smoother Book Check Out Process

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. Here are 5 tips to help you create a smoother book checkout at your school library.

1. Use a Laser Pointer for a Smoother Book Check Out

Use a simple laser pointer to help make a smoother book check out at your school library by pointing to show students where to find books they need.  You never have to leave the circulation desk!

You might be thinking “Laser Pointer???” I know I was when I first heard this. But let me tell you, this is a brilliant idea. Another librarian suggested this to me a couple of years ago and I wish I had known about it sooner.

Most of the questions that I answer from students are about the location of a book. If I can’t physically show the students where the book is then I will describe its 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.” I’m sure you understand!

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. Once my students figured out what I was doing I rarely had to say anything at all. While checking out one student, I could look at another and listen to their question. Then I would just grab the laser pointer and point.

I love the laser pointers on a keychain because I can easily hang them on a hook or attach to my lanyard for easy access.

2. Ask 3, Then Me

Teach students to ask each other for help before asking you.  This will help with less questions while you are trying to conduct check out.

This is a classroom management strategy that can be used in many different situations, not just book checkout. It’s fairly simple. Teach the students to ask 3 of their classmates their questions first. If no one can 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. Not only is this a great way to cut down on questions, but students love helping each other. It also shows students that you trust them to help each other. Kids of all ages love knowing that you trust them with being responsible.

Most students will pick this up quickly. There is a good chance they may already do this with their classroom teacher too. But this common classroom management technique is perfect for the school library too!

3. Two Checkout Lines

Create a smoother book check out process at your school library by simply creating two lines - one for check out and one for questions

Another simple, yet amazingly helpful tip is to have students make two different lines depending on why they are at the circulation desk.

One line is just for book checkout. When students finish choosing their books they come to this line to complete the checkout process.

The other line is just for questions. This will help you to multi-task more efficiently. This tip works really well with the laser pointer tip above. Remember that part about checking out books and just looking at a student with a question? Well, that can happen when you have two different lines.

To get started just print a sign that says “Check Out” and one that says “Questions.” Students will quickly learn what to do. In fact, you will find that they go to the correct line at other times of the day too.

4. Dewey Cheat Sheets

A Dewey cheat sheet will help students find books of interest without needing additional help.

Chances are you know your students and what types of books they like. Use this “insider knowledge” to help yourself out! Place some posters around the school 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. Better yet, train them to use the cheat sheet first!

Of course, it is always helpful to have clear labeling and signage. But paired with a Dewey cheat sheet, you can help your students be more independent in the library and learn more about Dewey Decimal System at the same time.

5. Book Request Sticky Notes

Simple sticky notes can help make a smoother book check out by allowing you to continue check out and pull books later

We are all familiar with the problem of student book requests at the school library. While I love that students know just what they want, I don’t always have time at that exact minute to go get the book. Use this idea when students request a specific book and you do not have the time to go find the book for them immediately.

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. It’s a great #libraryhack that will save you time and keep that chaotic feeling at bay.

And. . . did you know that you can print on sticky notes too? You can! It’s really quite simple and a great way to take this tip to the next level.

This sticky note template allows you print on sticky notes to make them meet your exact purpose.

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).

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 image below and the pre-formatted PowerPoint will automatically download to your computer..  

Download your freebie

Need More Ideas?

Here are 5 “Bonus” ideas that you can use to help you have a smoother book check out process in your school library.  

  • Parent volunteers are a great help for checking out books. Start by filling in the times of day with the highest number of checkouts.
  • Stagger your checkout times so that all students don’t need to check out at the same time.
  • Make check out a library center and have students rotate through that like they do other activities
  • Put stuffed animals and other props on your bookshelves to help students identify the different Dewey sections without needing to ask for help
  • Put more popular books/series in different colored bins. This will help students find these books more easily.

Save these Tips for a Smoother Book Check Out

I hope this post gave you some helpful and practical ideas that will help your school library have a smoother book check out time. Save these ideas to your favorite library Pinterest board so you can come back any time for more ideas.

Create a smoother book check out at your school library by implementing one or more of these simple and practical tips.