Setting Up a Classroom Library: Organization & Ideas

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  • 0:01 What Is a Classroom Library?
  • 1:00 Placement in the Classroom
  • 2:40 Comfort
  • 4:10 Organization
  • 5:50 What Books?
  • 7:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

All classrooms have different needs, and having a classroom library can be a great way to reach all your students. Watch this video lesson to learn how to set up an effective classroom library.

What Is a Classroom Library?

Having a classroom library can be a great tool in any class and can serve several purposes. First, it can provide a space of limited distraction. Many students find reading nearly impossible if other things are around to distract them. Having an isolated reading space can provide these types of students with an area where they can actually concentrate on reading. Second, providing a classroom library shows your students you value reading. Square footage in classrooms is a high commodity, and providing an area for reading alone indicates the importance of reading.

Lastly, a classroom library can be an area for students to escape from day-to-day school operations. Students go from sitting in one structured classroom to another all day long. Having a space where they don't have to sit in a desk and listen to instruction can provide many students with a reprieve, however brief, from the monotony of a school day.

Keeping these purposes in mind, let's look at some things to consider when setting up your classroom library.

Placement in the Classroom

When planning your classroom library, the first thing you need to consider is placement in the classroom. Remember, this needs to be in an area that provides peace and quiet for ideal concentration. Look around your room and ask yourself, 'What space provides the least amount of distraction?'

The center of the room is perhaps the busiest, so this should definitely not be where a library is placed. The same goes for areas near doors or dry-erase boards. These are high traffic areas that might cause distractions to students trying to read. Instead, choose a spot you can easily turn into its own area. A back corner or far side of the classroom usually is the least distracting area. In addition to providing a quiet space for students, having a library out of the way also allows for more options for you as the teacher. While some students are tucked away reading, you can conduct other lessons or activities with groups in the center of the room.

Once you have found an appropriate space, think about how to separate it from the rest of the class. You should define the space as the library. Obviously, you cannot build new walls, but having a rug or a curtain are great ways to indicate the separation of the space. You can even place bookshelves in specific ways just to seclude the library from the rest of the room. If you have younger grades, also think about if you will ever need room for whole class reading time. If so, a curtain or something easy to move will allow for different activities.


The second thing you should think about is to provide comfort, which will be inviting to your students. A comfortable library might be just enough to appeal to students who are reluctant readers. Imagine you are a student sitting in a hard desk day in and day out. But one classroom provides a nice comfy cushion in the corner with fluffy pillows and blankets. Wouldn't you be more tempted to go read a book just so you can get out of the hard desk?

Providing body pillows, child size chairs, bean bag chairs, or even a futon can make students feel more at home. Think about it; where do you go to enjoy a good book in your own home? You probably curl up on the couch with a warm blanket and pillow. Students love to have that opportunity in the classroom. You can even come up with a theme for your library. For example, with a garden theme, you can get fake plants and lawn chairs the students can sit on. For a nautical theme, you can hang ship decorations and even have a fish tank. Students love taking care of classroom pets, and fish are fairly easy to maintain.

Finally, be sure to have the means of storing the comfortable materials. Hold students accountable for refolding blankets, putting away chairs, turning off book lights, and placing everything in the proper spot. You might want to provide a crate or a box in which to put these materials. Overall, keep comfort and storage in mind when designing your classroom library.


After you decide on the placement and comfort materials you will have in your library, start to think about the rest of the organization. The books need to be organized in some manner, or the students will allow the books to become a chaotic mess.

Having books in alphabetical order by author makes sense for large public libraries, but your students might not have as much use for that type of organization. Many students have not developed reading habits determined by author, but almost all know if they like romance, or adventure, or horror, or fantasy. Therefore, many teachers organize their libraries according to genre. Genre is a group of writing that shares the same style, form, or subject matter. Organizing by genre can be a way to motivate students to try new authors and types of books.

Many teachers use shelves or even baskets to organize the books into groups. Whatever you use, be sure to clearly label each basket. A great idea is to make a chart to hang on the wall that details the available genres. Then, you can use stickers to mark the books and the baskets according to the key on the chart. Each color sticker can represent a different genre. This way, if the books get mixed up, students can easily put them back where they belong.

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