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Should I Check Out Books Over the Holiday?

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

Dear Dr. Laura,

My principal approached me about the idea of letting students take books home over the Christmas break. This makes me so nervous. I am so worried about them losing books. My budget is so small and I’d never be able to replace them. What do you think?


Nervous Librarian

Hi, Nervous Librarian!

I actually think there is more than one way to approach this. What a wonderful opportunity you have been given by your principal. I recently heard Jennifer Lagarde mention that as she travels across America, she sees that librarians all have the same goals: to create readers and learners. But how each librarian accomplishes those goals is different. It’s obvious your principal is very student-centered and wants to help you meet your goals as a librarian. You and your principal will need to think about several things as you develop a plan.

Boy reading book

Identify the needs of your student population. Where do your students have access to books? We know that many families can not provide access to books in their homes. This could be due to poverty or numerous other reasons. Is your school library their only access to books? Is your neighborhood close to the public library? Do your families have access to transportation to get them to the public library? Do your students have an eBook collection they can access? Do your families have devices to get to your online collection?

If you determine that your school library is the primary source for reading materials, then you need to come up with a plan.

Writing a plan

In the future, you might look at various grant funds that would allow you to send your students home with free books to keep. There are a variety of grants you can explore. Look at this post for a link to a grant database.

Many Title I schools in my area have had great success with the Molina Foundation . Several of our districts have received 40,000+ books for giveaways. You can also look at inexpensive books from First Books, which is who the Molina Foundation partners with. I have been very impressed with their book collection.

But, for now, if you decide to check out library books to your students, here are some things to consider.

  • Some schools make it optional for students to check out over the holiday breaks. Have an open conversation with your students about their travel plans, rumors of moving for your high mobility students, and any other special circumstances you can think of for your student population.

  • Discuss book responsibility. You can do some Look Likes/Sounds Like charts described in this post.

  • Make a school-wide decision that it is better to lose a book than to lose a reader. As a new librarian, it can be hard to adjust to the knowledge that more than likely you will lose books throughout the year. It is almost impossible to retrieve every book that is checked out throughout the year. A new librarian has to learn that lost books are a part of our cost of doing business.

  • Consider holding a raffle of some kind for those who return all their books after the break. I used to save all the bookfair sample posters and use those for my raffles for this kind of thing. Everyone loves the bookfair posters of hot cars, cute puppies, famous child stars, football team logos, etc!

  • Other librarians work with their teachers and reward the class or grade level with the smallest number of overdue books to a special event at the library. (makerspace day, robot time, lunch in the library, etc.)

  • I have heard of librarians that open the school library for a couple of hours midway through the break to allow students to return and check out new books.

  • If you have an assortment of paperback books or maybe paperback books from older reading adoptions in your textbook room, consider making those available for checkout.

Children reading

We have to believe in our hearts that it's worth losing a few books in exchange for building and sustaining a love of reading. It can be tough at the beginning when you are trying to do everything by the book. But, always come back to the reason you do your job. Students first, no matter what. Be their ally. Be their support.

Readers, I invite your to find this article on the Librarian Influencers Facebook page and add other comments of how you make holiday checkout successful at your school.

Don't be nervous anymore!

Dr. Laura

The Librarian Influencer of the Week is 2nd-year librarian Amanda Johnson from Virginia.

You can follow her at:

Twitter: ms_johnson11

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