Trekking through the wilds of library instruction, management, and fun!

Mar 3, 2014

Book Return Sanity Savers

Sometimes I just don't understand things that perhaps I should. For example, I don't understand having a "book drop" INSIDE my library. My goal is to get the books scanned in and then returned to the correct shelf. While a book cart may be helpful in accomplishing that goal, I can't see where the  book drop is of any help at all.

It actually caused quite a few problems. On busy days when I couldn't keep up with the traffic, the books would overflow the bin. Plus, the check out computer wouldn't let students check out because they still hadn't returned their books, only they really had. They were just buried under other books that had been "dropped."

Several years later, I was at a conference and heard about a library that had eliminated their book drop, having the students place books directly on a book truck instead. You should have heard the exclamations throughout the room. It was ingenious!

I brought the idea back and implemented it in my library, with a few changes:
1. I have my students check their books in themselves.
2. The cart is labeled, and the students place books on the correct shelf of a labeled cart. 
3. I made up a little jump rope chant to help the students place them correctly on the shelf: "UP like a DOOR, with the LABEL near the FLOOR."
4. We hot-glued foamy shelf liner on the shelves to help books stay upright. It doesn't last forever, but it certainly helps.
5. To prevent a long line out the door when large groups come in, I revert to a mini version of the book drop by placing a container on the desk. Students drop books in, and then I check them all in quickly.



 A few more reminders: 
1. Cover the book drop hole securely - your students will try to help by uncovering it :)
2. Set up the computer closest to the entrance to check in, and leave it that way all day. Connect loud speakers so your students can hear the "good" sound.
3. Walk through the process with your classes.
4. Set up the other computer to check out and place parameters to only allow a maximum of checkouts per patron. That way, it will sound a warning if the students accidentally fail to check in their books. Remind them that they won't be able to check out if they haven't effectively checked in, so they should listen for the "good" sound every time they check in a book.
4. You'll need 2 of these carts, so you can have a replacement while you take one to shelve.

Please contact me if you have any problem opening the following documents.

Check In Sign  
Return Cart Labels
(Click the printer icon, select "Open with Adobe" and print from there for best quality) 
Elf Sign 1
Elf Sign 2
Elf Sign 3
Elf Sign 4

Yours happily ever after,


  1. I agree with your assessment of drop boxes, they are just a pain in the neck. I would send a cart around every morning to pick up library books. My goal was to have all the books checked in before the classes arrived, sometimes that worked and sometimes is didn't. The only drawback I had see is the time is would take up in a fixed schedule. I would love to have a copy of your signs but I couldn't open them in DropBox.

  2. Great idea. How do you handle renews?

  3. I don't really have to deal with renewals since I don't charge fines and I just let them keep them as long as necessary. I suppose it would be better for my stats if I did, but it just never presented itself as a problem.

  4. I've done this process for 10+ years. If a student needs to renew, they can either get me or my assistant and we renew or they check their book in and check it out again. I have three carts: fiction, "E" and NF/Biog. Students will shop off the carts before the shelves!

  5. I am working on this in my library!! We just have so many special places where different books go. I'm just waiting on a computer currently! Yay! I can't wait to check out your blog.

  6. I don't have a drop box. My class books are delivered by students first thing in the morning, and I check them in 1 class batch at a time, then run overdues. I have renew slips we use too. I inspect them, give them a quick wipe down, then onto my shelving cart. Next batch, ditto. Works for me pretty well....

  7. Love love love the self check in idea! Do even your first grade students do well with this?

  8. MY procedure is similar,but I do still use the drop. Students check in and put books in the drop. Then my middle school helpers sort them to the carts. Each shelf on the cart holds a range that a helper is responsible for. Helpers sort quickly and accurately then can clear their shelve. IT also helps me monitor their work.