Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Anal-Retentive Guide to Library Organization


So now you know my secret - I'm a book hoarder.  But unlike the TV show, where there are piles everywhere and trash mixed in with dead animals, my stash is neatly organized and filed away in plastic tubs.

The way I went about organizing was a little haphazard - I didn't have a plan, I just started taking books out of tubs and making piles.  I spent a moment or two deciding how best to organize, and I decided that since elementary school covers such a wide range of subjects and reading levels, not to mention picture books versus chapter books, the best way to organize my books would be by reading level.  This way, when I get a job, I'll be able to take the tubs that my students at their particular grade level can handle.  Kindergarten kids wouldn't be getting my Lemony Snicket books, and 5th graders wouldn't get Dr. Seuss and Junie B. Jones.  After I decided how to do it, I just jumped in, headfirst.

I would pull out a handful of books, check their reading levels on the Lexile website, and make a pile accordingly.  Books that didn't have levels would get their own pile.  I did this until nearly every book was either in a pile with like levels or a tub with like subjects.  I have some tubs just for certain genres - classic literature, Christmas and winter holidays, poetry, myths and fables, etc...  From these piles I began putting the books back into the tubs, only this time, like went with like.

After all my piles and tubs were settled, I started cataloging.  Let me just tell you that Excel is my best friend.  It is everything my little left-brain head wishes it could be.  So I typed the books into an Excel spreadsheet using the following columns - Title, Author, # of Copies, and Location.  Location refers to which tub they were in, and you better believe that every tub got marked with an "address".  For example, I have a Show-Off (small plastic tubs with a handle on the snap-on lid) that is labeled "Chapter books 900+".  I wager the name is pretty self-explanatory.  Lexile says that 900 is an on-grade-level range starting at the 6th grade, so my collection of those books isn't very large.

Cataloging this way is great because it allows me to arrange the books by title, author, or location.  Eventually I'd like to add extra columns like Lexile level and keywords, to help me search for a book for a particular theme or lesson, but those aren't necessary.

I could have stopped there, but I always seem to take things a bit too far.  Long ago, I had pinned something on Pinterest that I've been dying to try out, a program called the Booksource Classroom Organizer.  You put all your books into a system, and you can use a smartphone to scan the ISBN numbers to "check them out" to students, so you can keep track of who has what book.  Now I know, a teacher doesn't have time to sit there and scan books for 22 kids, that's just insane.  But if I loan out a special book, like one of my books that is signed by the author or one of the books I've had since I was a kid, I'd like to know where it goes.  So I put my whole library into this system, one book at a time.  Ideally, you'd be able to download the app and just scan all the titles into the library.  That didn't work for me because the books were already put away in their specific tubs and there was no way in HECK I was getting them all out again.  I had a few tubs that were already organized - those genre-specific ones I mentioned above, so I tried the app out on those.  My success rate with the scanner was only about 50%, and some older books, or books with library binding didn't have an ISBN bar code on them, so I had to look inside the book and enter it by hand.  Mostly, I just consulted my oh-so-pretty Excel spreadsheet, typed the titles into Amazon and copied/pasted the ISBN numbers.  Again, there are a few books that the company doesn't recognize, so a little less than 10% of my collection isn't in the system at all, but since I'll only be using it for "special" books, I'm okay with that.

You'd think I'd be done, right?  Not quite.  The last part of this equation, the part that won't get done until I have at least 4 extra sets of hands, is to put colored tape on the books to signify their Lexile level.  It helps the kids get closer to picking Just-Right books.  Since I've only had experience at one school, I thought the colors and what levels they correspond to was set in stone.  I've since discovered that you can pretty much assign whatever color to whatever level you want.  Since I haven't decided what colors to use, I'm not going to worry about that part right now.

So there you have it - a crazy person organizes her crazy collection of children's books.  I hope reading about my insanity made you feel a little more sane =). 

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