What works for school librarians in 2019

Librarian Book Shelves

Hi, friends! As the 2018-19 year draws to a close, we school librarians reflect on what worked for us in the past school year, and what we’d like to change for the upcoming year. In this “round-up” post, I’ll share some of the ideas that worked for the members of our Learning Librarians Facebook group.

I shared that one of the things that worked best for me this year was inviting groups of 20 or so students to eat their lunch in the library while we listened to an audiobook and viewed the pages on the big screen. The students and I truly enjoyed sharing a good book together, in a relaxed (but quiet) environment.

Several other librarians that a lunch bunch book club worked for them, too. One of them read Stone Fox to 3rd grade. The chapters are short enough to read 2 chapters a day for a full week.

Here are some more great, librarian-tested ideas for your school library!

Classroom Management

One librarian shared that she had a very challenging group of 4th graders this year that worried her in the beginning. She tried something new and told them that they were her favorite class that she gets to see each week. She says that the whole environment changed, including her attitude toward them. She started looking forward to seeing them because she looked for the positive in them. Now they are a great group!

By the way, we’ve got a great post about behavior management from our guest blogger Stephanie Vukovich. You can read it here.

Classroom Management for Librarians

Having a whiteboard easel with a welcome message and directions for each grade level for the day worked well for another media specialist. When she is busy, the teachers and classroom aides know to have the class stop and read the message before entering the main part of the library. Usually, the two options are go to the reading corner or sit at the tables. But, sometimes she likes to do something different, and the sign alleviates confusion.

In one school library, the fifth graders helped the kindergarteners learn how to use shelf markers. So much easier with big buddies! They LOVED helping the littles. Those big buddies “skipped” their usual library orientation, not realizing that they were getting the same exact info in picture book format, and reinforcing their own shelf marker skills!


Students’ favorite time of the year — and big annual tradition for one elementary school library — is when their school librarian reads the five picture books nominated for the California Young Reader Medal, one book a week, and then the students vote on their favorite. Votes then get sent in to the CYRM program, and students are very excited to learn the state winner when announced in May.

Another favorite lesson of the year was during the week of Valentine’s Day. One of our Learning Librarians did a book tasting, focused on “series” and “themes” where she pulled books and put them on decorated tables. Her plastic table cloths only lasted 2 class periods, so she replaced them with bulletin board paper. It was so much easier and easy to put away in a snap. She chose series at different reading levels for 3-5 graders, with a variety of reading difficulty. After they “tasted” books at each table, they had a little treat, and everyone had a great time!

Have you heard about Colby Sharp and his what his 5th graders are reading videos? They inspired one school librarian to read and share a lot of great books with her oldest students.

Another librarian prepared for an author visit by reading aloud a book by that author over many weeks. Next, she had the students work in small groups to create videos showing scenes from the book. When the author came to visit, the students were very familiar with her work, and they amazed her by sharing their videos.

One librarian led a novel study using Out of my Mind with 21 gifted 4th graders from various classes. They were in need of lessons on empathy and interacting with students with autism. Life-changing! She saw their perspectives changing and their willingness to befriend kids way different than themselves emerge. So powerful!

Out of My Mind book for school librarians to read.

Have you heard of First Chapter Fridays? One of our school librarians displayed random chapter books for third and fourth grade classes visiting her library on Friday. Each student picks a chapter book, sits down and reads the first chapter. She chooses books in a series, or books by authors who have more books to choose from. You could also choose to let students read in pairs, or you could read a chapter aloud to the whole class.

Don’t forget your teacher customers! You can bring new books to teacher meetings and book talk those titles for your teachers. Those book talks could provide a great opportunity to collaborate with your teachers on future lessons.

Library Centers

One of our Learning Librarians implemented library centers and discovered what a game changer they are!  She had 4 basic centers and just changed the theme and had 1 rotating center for k-2. Her basic centers were: make a bookmark, book making, listening to stories with QR codes (eventually teaching kids to maneuver around BookFlix), coloring, puzzles and secret spot reading (kids take a cushion and a flashlight and read under tables). Rotating centers were library skill activities (like abc order games or cut and paste fiction or non-fiction from old book fair flyers), games (book related board games or puzzles), etc.

School librarians use a pocket chart to manage library centers.

She used a calendar pocket chart with the centers down the left side and popsicle sticks for kids to take out when they went to the center. This system limited the number of kids at each library center by only putting a certain number of sticks in each pocket.

(For complete details on how to start library centers in your school library, check out my printable ebook: Library Centers for Library Learners.)

Productivity for School Librarians

Do you use a to-do list? You can add tasks as you need to and cross them off as you do them. Not only will you feel productive, but if anyone wants to know what you’ve accomplished, the list serves as a sort of diary. These tasks should help you accomplish SMART goals that you set at the beginning of the year.


Don’t try to do it all! These ideas were shared by a multitude of school librarians. Choose one or two of these ideas to implement in your school library next year!

Have a great idea to share? We’d love to hear about it in a comment!


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    1. Can you explain listening to the audiobook while reading it on the big screen? Did you own an e-version of the same book?

      1. Hi, Emily!
        Yes, our district has an Overdrive subscription that is shared among all the libraries. So I have access to ebooks and audiobooks. If we don’t have the ebook, I just show the pages of the print book via document camera. And if we don’t have the audio book, I sometimes borrow audio CDs from our public library. I like for the students to be able to see the words while they hear the words read aloud with expression.
        Thanks for your question!

    2. I follow your facebook page along with subscribing to this. I love all the creative ideas! Can you tell me when someone comments on fb that they have added the requested documents to the files, how do we access the files?

    3. Thanks for sharing your ideas! We do book talks and I like to show authors reading part of their story or explaining how they came up with the ideas for their books. It can be a challenge when you have a large class and not all the kids are at their grade reading levels. Do you have tips how to deal with this for lessons plans? I started a blog to share my love of reading with parents and grandparents, its just one of mylessonsearned.

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