My Classroom Library Makeover: Downsizing & Prioritizing

More pictures are to come! This is a current work in progress. Stay tuned on Instagram for more updates!


The power of the classroom library cannot be ignored (I hear you, NCTE), but, I admit, for a long time I haven’t been a huge fan.  Something about their popularity on social media always rubbed me the wrong way.  So often I see new teachers posting, begging, and desperate for ideas for how to collect enough books for their libraries, and I’m frustrated that there’s just one more thing on our plate to take responsibility (not to mention, more money!).  I see pictures of color coordinated, gorgeous spaces in August followed up by pictures of the same area covered in construction tape come November, and I can’t help but wonder, what’s the point?  

I can remember this panic as a first year teacher: how on earth was I going to get enough books to fill my classroom library? Then, I scoured garage sales and Goodwill to find titles to fill the random shelves left in my classroom from the retired teacher who “lived” there before me. Fast forward about three years and those shelves and the dream classroom library scenario that I had imagined was a hot mess. I never actually found time to catalog anything. We had a “go grab something to read” policy that wasn’t fostering a love for books. Nothing was organized, and as I’m sure many veteran teachers can remember, there were quite a few other things on the table that took precedence over maintaining order over the classroom library. I tried putting students in charge, I tried tending to it one day a week, but without dedicating serious time and energy to the library, it just became more and more frustrating to maintain. What WAS working, however, were BOOK TALKS. Conversations about literature between me and my students, between the librarians who visited my classroom and the students, and other adults in the building sharing their love of reading: that was time well spent. Alphabetizing and reorganizing the mess in the back? Not so much.

The library clutter right around June 1st…

The library clutter right around June 1st…

Then, after ten years in that school, it was time to move. And guess what? There was NO WAY I was moving all of those books. I kept the ones that were nearest and dearest to my heart and gifted the rest to students and the teachers who would inherit my classroom. It was time for a new approach.

I’d like to share with you today how I revamped my classroom library and gave it a total makeover.  From the physical space to the philosophy and purpose behind the library itself, I’ve done a lot of renovation to create something that will be effective and practical in my busy teacher life.


For me, the purpose of a classroom library is not really about access to books.  For my teaching career, I’ve worked in schools with incredible librarians and school libraries that are well stocked, diverse, and engaging with students.  Because of this, I needed to define the exact purpose of my CLASSROOM library. Why have my library if the one down the hall is incredible? The answer to this question is the driving purpose behind each of the decisions I made in my library makeover: to share a passion and love of stories and to pique curiosity.


Classroom Library Photo 3.jpg

So, if my goal is to share my passion and love of stories and pique curiosity along the way, there’s no need for a massive library space.  We don’t do silent sustained reading, my kids aren’t looking for cute reading furniture (that’s just not how my 50 minute high school periods go!), so I was focused on finding one furniture item that would allow me to house the books that would accomplish my purpose.

Enter:  the three tiered rolling cart.

I love this cart for so many reasons.  It was easy to put together, it’s portable (hello wheels!), and it’s naturally sectioned off for me to create categories.  

I really like this one on Amazon, or even this one as a cheaper option (it would be so cute with some Dollar Tree bins!)

Since I wanted to pique curiosity, I will be implementing a shortened version of the First Chapter Friday practice with my own First PAGE Friday.  I want the book that I read from to be easily visible for students, so I opted to pick up this cart topper so that the top of the cart was more like a shelf.  Then, the next Friday, I can toss the book(s) from the previous week into the top bin and move on to the next book! 


My dear friend Ashley Bible is the queen of all things tidy.  She hosts a Clean Classroom Challenge through her Instagram account a few times a year, and when I read through the challenge, this idea stuck with me:  five star books only. Ashley made a decision to cut the clutter in her classroom library by only affording shelf space to the best books in her collection.  The others were given away or donated. Read all about her system here.

So, with that in mind, my library will take on the same attitude.  Again, my purpose is to pique curiosity and share passion, so what better way to do that than with the books that I’m seriously crushing on and that I know kids are drooling over?  I used to think that if I didn’t spend my summer weekends scouring garage sales, writing grants, and creating donors choose drives, I would never be able to replenish my library. I’m done with that!  All that time I now spend working on other things that more tangibly affect the overall growth of my students and their literacy skills. Also, I spend more time on ME relaxing and taking care of myself before the next school year rolls around.

Any books that don’t fit in my small little library either are at my house or in a closet at school. Students will still be able to see that I own them by accessing our DIGITAL library. More on that in a bit!

Classroom LIbrary Photo 2.jpg


QR codes are seriously my friend. I use them for everything, especially now that our school is 1:1 with chrome books. With QR codes, my little portable library gives students access to the extra books I have at home (using the app Libib), the books in our school library (just links to their online digital catalog), the books in our school ebook library (again, organized by my fabulous librarians!), as well as a YouTube playlist of book recommendations, trailers, and reviews (grab that playlist here). To display these QR codes, I simply created some templates (I used a mountain/outdoor theme to match my classroom), printed, backed on cardstock, laminated, and attached them directly to my cart!

Classroom Library Photo 1.jpg