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Classroom Library Management

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

Dear Dr. Laura

I’m at my wits end! Do you have any tips for getting my library time under control? I have kids that talk non-stop, crawl under the tables, and all kinds of crazy things while I am reading a book or giving instructions.


Wits End Librarian

Hi, Wits End Librarian,

Being a new librarian is tough.  As a teacher you had to get accustomed to your own students and now you have to learn about every student at the whole school!  I am going to assume you are talking about elementary kiddos since you said things like crawl under the tables.  

A couple of things could be going on. 

Hopefully, one of these things will do the trick.  But, if not, read on.

Assorted clock faces

At this point in the school year you’re going to realize if you spent enough time developing your library routines/procedures: how to enter/leave the library, how to behave at story time/lesson time, etc.  It may be time to circle back around to the idea that an effective teacher librarian is an extremely good classroom library manager.  If we harken back to Harry Wong’s The First Days of School (2004), he states the three most important student behaviors that must be established are: 1. Discipline, 2. Procedures, and 3. Routines.

I hope you are in a situation where you there is a school wide discipline plan in place. So, no matter where the students go on campus, they have the same plan enforced by all the educators. Be sure to post this school wide plan in your library so the students know the same rules apply here. 

a hand writing a list on a piece of paper

If you come to realize things are a little chaotic in your library right now, you may need to develop some very specific rules that pinpoint behaviors you expect. Possibly, you can take the school rules and add bullet points under each one explaining what that means in your particular setting. Another tip is to always phrase these expectations in a positive way, not negative. Use DO, not DON’T kinds of phrases.

For example, if one of the school rules is Be on Your Best Behavior.  You can add some details below it. Never assume students have the same “up-bringing” or “home training” that your family did.  Some educators like to make a t-chart to show what each rule sounds and looks like.  This example is provided with an elementary setting in mind.

T Chart for Rules

Once you develop these expectations, you should review them each time the class visits you in the library for a month or longer if needed.  It may be appropriate to review part of the rules that apply to whatever activity you are doing next in the library.  “OK, class. We are going to begin our lesson. What does Ms. Sheneman expect to hear when I am giving you instructions?”  (Class responds). “What does Ms. Sheneman expect to see you doing when I am giving instructions?” (Class responds.)

You want to be an effective librarian.  Hopefully, you want to have your contract renewed for the coming school year. (Don’t give up yet!  The students need you!) You want to make a positive impact on your students’ lives. By providing these specific expectations, you are telling the students exactly what you expect to hear and see them doing during their time with you in the library. You may feel like you are being a little more strict as you establish these new norms.  But, it will pay off!

a young child using binoculars to observe

If you find yourself still struggling, ask your principal to arrange for you to visit another librarian in your area.  It can be very helpful to observe a veteran librarian and see the kinds of routines they have established. I promise! The veteran librarian will love for you to visit.

Take establishing your library routines/procedures seriously.  Having a smooth running library is vital to your students’ success and feeling of well-being and safety.  It is also vital to your own health. You will go home a lot less stressed each day when your library time is enjoyable and engaging. Give it your best shot and reach out for help when you need more guidance.

Dr. Laura

The Librarian Influencer of the week is Jessica Hedrick. You can find her podcast interview on my podcast page, your favorite podcast player, or by visiting this link

Twitter: @theMsHedrick


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