Get Those Library Books Turned In!

Hi friends!

The school year is over, and at our school of about 850 students, after checking out well over 40,000 books this year, only 40 library books have not yet made it home to their shelves. I’ve been working to get this number lower each year, and here’s what works for me!

Library BooksBuild relationships with teachers all year long!

I work to build positive relationships with all the teachers on our campus. I teach lessons with them, help them find the resources they need, troubleshoot tech troubles, or watch their class for 5 minutes if they need a bathroom break! Teacher friends make our job more fun!

Snake in School Library

Because we’ve worked together as a team for the past 9 months, our teachers are happy to contact parents to help get our library books back.  Teachers know when and how best to connect with each family and are much more effective at this than me calling parents from out of the blue. Win-win!

Recognize students for being responsible all year long!

I use punches on our library cards to recognize students each week when they return their library books. My library card design is available on Teachers Pay Teachers. After students return (or renew) their books 6 times, they earn a trip to the treasure box.

Library Learners Shelf Marker

This positive reinforcement each week encourages students to keep up with their library books ( and earn “treasure” like fun pencils and erasers) throughout the school year.

Recognize teachers throughout the year!

I create a sign at the beginning of each school year, coordinated with my library theme for the year. The sign is an award for each class with 100% book returns for the week. On their library visit, I give them the sign to post outside their classroom, and it’s a point of pride to show off the library accomplishments of the class.

Library Learners

This is the sign I used when I had an ocean theme in our library. Super simple, printed on colored cardstock, and easy to hand out to jawsome classes!

What works for you?

I know you have some great ideas for helping your students return their books. I do NOT want our families to have to pay for lost library books–what a waste of their money! Please share your ideas in a comment, and I’ll add them to this post.

library learners signature

Your Great Ideas

Thanks to those of you who shared your super ideas for helping students return their library books! I’m gonna add these to my bag of tricks!

  • Martha recommends sending overdue notices home in student folders
  • Debbie mails overdue notices home and prints them on bright orange paper near the end of the school year. She posts on a bulletin board the number of library books still out and the cost to replace them.
  • Wendy rewards teachers who have all the class books turned in with a gift of time where students can come to the library and have fun center time.
  • Jennifer gives students spending money at the AR store for books turned in on time.

And I found this fun video, a librarian’s parody of “Sorry,” and we can definitely share this with our students. I may include it in my orientation at the beginning of the year!

Thanks for your collaboration!

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    1. I don’t know what system we use but we have Follett Destiny. This system has overdue notices that you can customize and will automatically create them for all overdue books. I find that once these official letters, which include the price for losing a book, go home in students’ folders, we get alot of books returned.

    2. Hi Cari,
      Our library system,Insignia, can be set up to email overdue notices home. The last couple of weeks of school I also send home BRIGHT orange overdue notices. Like you, my teachers are amazing and will call home for me. Also during morning announcements, our principal announces which classes have all their library books turned in for the year. I also have a bulletin board outside the library giving different statistics, such as how many books are still out and how much it would cost to replace them all. Staff and parent volunteers are always shocked by the amount of money it would take to do that.
      Lastly, I have used your Win Win checkout cards for the last couple of years. My students LOVE them!! I have recommended them to other librarians. Thank you so much for an excellent idea!
      Enjoy your summer break! Stay cool if possible, we are having record breaking heat here in the desert!

    3. I’m debating the treasure chest part because it didn’t seem to change return stats. Same kids got the little whatever it was and the same kids didn’t. Add self-checkouts not getting the hole punche and me getting tired of kiddos constantly in my face “Do I go to the treasure box today?” (how grumpy can I be? Little kids like stuff) and I’m really thinking about taking that part out and using the money for more reading promo. Or just handing it out to the whole class if they have like 95% return during a visit or something. Still mentally debating. If it works, awesome. Every group is different!

    4. I agree with you about forming a rapport with your teachers. I reward the teachers who have their entire class clear by the due date. I give them a ‘gift if time’ the last week of school. I combine a few classes and give the teachers 45-60 minutes where I cover the classes and they can work. If it’s too many kids, a movie works. But usually I have fun stations set up so its a win-win for all of us: time for teachers, fun for kids, and less lost books I need to track down.

    5. We have an end of the year Accelerated Reading auction where the kids use their AR points to bid on donated items. This year, I offered 10 bonus points to spend at the auction for anyone who returned all their books on time…I have never had so many books returned on time!!! The kids were thrilled and it didn’t cost me a dime!

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