25 August 2015

Books Can Bite: Tips For Keeping Library Shelves Organized

Keeping library shelves neat and tidy is a neverending job. I don't have a perfect solution that keeps them looking how they do after we finish inventory when everything is in the right spot, but I do have some tips that might make life a wee bit easier in that department. Let's tackle each issue individually.

Books Falling Over

This one isn't an easy (or free) fix, but it works wonders. Our library was renovated four years ago and the main thing I asked for was built in dividers on my shelves. I'd seen them at another library a few years earlier and had been dreaming about them ever since. Luckily, that request was approved and 90% of my shelves have dividers now. Each shelf has a series of small holes drilled into them and there are V shaped dividers that fit into the holes. The nice thing about these dividers is that I can place them wherever I want or remove them altogether if need be. I generally have 4 dividers on each shelf, with one spot left empty for a front facing book. This allows me to space the books out a bit, which is a big improvement over having them all crunched tightly together. And it also prevents the domino effect of a whole shelf of books starting to lean, then crash onto the floor. 

But you don't have to order your shelves with pre-drilled holes. The first time I saw this done, a local carpenter had drilled the holes. He made wooden dividers with two pegs attached to the bottom. Like mine, these dividers were removable, but you could easily make them more permanent by adding a touch of wood glue.

Spines Out, Not In

Another problem is that students often put books back on the shelf with the spine facing in, not out. The way I've tackled that is through FEAR (just kidding...mostly). I like to read The Book That Eats People by John Perry. After reading the book, we talk about how books have mouths, just like animals. And sometimes books get hungry. I usually snap the book closed a few times for effect. We talk about how holding the book by its mouth is dangerous (plus, it means you put the book in backwards). I teach my students to hold the book by its spine so that it goes on the shelf correctly AND they keep all their fingers. It doesn't work 100% of the time, but I often hear students reminding their friends not to touch the book's mouth, so it does help. So, next time you're teaching your students about the spine, tell them about the book's mouth too.

Close Enough

I love when books are in the right spot, but ever since I lost my parapro, I've had to adjust my expectations. Right now, I'm fine if books are on the right shelf, even if the order is a bit off. It helps that we've moved away from the Dewey Decimal System. All my books have spine stickers that indicate where they should go. So, all my picture books by authors whose last name starts with an M are together, even though they're not all in perfect ABC order. Generally, the sections are small enough to shelf browse. A few letters have bigger sections (i.e. B and S), but for the most part it's a manageable system. In chapter books, we're organized by genre. So, if the mystery books are all together, that's close enough. And the spine stickers make it pretty obvious when something is in the wrong place (see if you can find the misplaced book in the photo below). I ordered different colors for all my ABC stickers (As are pink, Bs are blue, Cs are orange, etc). So, if there's a B book in the C section, it's pretty easy to spot. I teach my students to look for books like that and help them make it home if they find one.

Can you spot which book is in the wrong place?
Do you have any tips for keeping your shelves neat and organized? If so, leave me a comment and I'll add it to this post.