An eighth-grade teacher’s classroom library is where I found my favorite book, Goodbye Paperdoll.  She had a closet-sized classroom, but still felt it was important enough to sacrifice the space for bookshelves that lined the back wall. If you, too, are a language arts teacher with a major book obsession as embodied in your own classroom library, you’ll want to check out this amazing resource I found and have been using since 2011.

Getting started launched Classroom Organizer as a free online classroom library checkout and return system for teachers, and it has made all the difference in my classroom. When I started teaching in 2001 I had collected a small library and kept track through index cards. Each month I would add books through Scholastic book orders and bonus points, but I was terrible about using the index card system. There was too much I needed to do for the system to be effective, and by effective I mean keeping track of books that traveled to and from my classroom. One summer I thought I’d trade up to a spreadsheet that students could enter book information for themselves, but that quickly became a true nightmare. Then one afternoon I was scrolling through iTunes, searching for new teacher apps and the heavens parted when I saw a free app called Classroom Organizer.

This FREE resource has revolutionized my classroom library! At the time I had a student helper, so I created an account and put her straight to work scanning in my 1200 plus classroom library. Back then there wasn’t much to the system beyond the title, author, ISBN, and book cover photo. Now, Booksource offers you a number of options to really get the best out of your library. If you’re ready to transform your classroom library then check out these features and tips for using the Classroom Organizer. Want a FREE editable poster to show students how to use your new online book checkout system? Sign up for the TMR newsletter!

Making it work for your classroom library

First, you’ll need to create an account. When creating your account keep in mind that students will be using the username and password to access the student page. Capitalization counts here! Originally I was not married when I created my account, MissBBooks, and it was not a difficult task to have my username changed, however, I did have to contact the website to make the change. Changing the password can be done on your own. I always make my password the room number. This makes it easier for students.

Once you have an account, the website will walk you through the features of your dashboard to give you a full picture of what the site offers. Before you start adding books, be sure to visit the Preferences page found on the Your Account page. Here you will be able to list any genres you want to include. In order for these to be part of the drop-down menu in your library check the Genre box under Library Data, but be sure the Fiction/Nonfiction box is not also checked. I suggest looking through all of the details that you can provide with each book, like the genre, location, condition, lexile, etc. and decide what labels you feel will truly benefit your classroom. I have never kept up with the conditions, but I would like students to know the lexile of a book and where it belongs in my classroom. The problem here is that these are updates for me, so in order to add them I would have to input this for each individual book; with more than 3,000 books being housed in my classroom that’s a ton of time updating. It’s my advice to make these decisions before you begin! As you input books you can add these options from the website. Books are organized alphabetically by title, so once you get a number of your books into the system you’ll want to search the title to make those additions.

When you’re ready to add titles I would suggest using a laptop and scanner, if you have access to one. This is a quicker method when the book doesn’t have an ISBN number or fails to pick up information, like the author or book cover. Using a device with a camera is an option, but it will not show you the detail that the website provides.

How to manage your classroom library

Once you have scanned in your library there are a number of reports to help you make new book decisions. For example, you can see what genres you have very little of and start adding more. You can even create a wish list of books to share with parents! Need help finding titles? Read my post on 50+ Summer Reading Recommendations, they aren’t just for summer.

One of the other great new features is Teacher Resources. Booksource has provided lesson ideas for thousands of titles and gives you FREE access to them. You’ll notice a small TR maroon circle in your library view.

Using this system has made it so much easier for me to keep track of books, see what kids are reading, and find new teaching ideas. Some of my voracious readers even added the app to their phones to make check out faster! Let me know how the Classroom Organizer works for your classroom. Don’t forget to subscribe to our exclusive teacher newsletters for a FREE poster to help students with the login and check out process, among other great free printables. 

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