Set up your Classroom Library like a Pro!

Have you ever walked down the aisles of a bookstore and marveled at their organized displays? It just makes you want to find a comfy chair and curl up with a good book, right?

Have you had the same aspirations for your classroom library and to your dismay, fallen into an unorganized, overflowing mess? If so, you’re in the right place, we’re here to help you.

Read on to find out how to set up your classroom library like a pro and grab a FREE Reading Genre Bingo resource to use with your students.

classroom library

Find Books for Your Library

So, where do you begin? Before you can create the classroom library of your dreams, you have to have books! Now, you could spend tons of your own money (and you probably still will) on buying the newest and greatest books for your students to love, but there’s so many ways to get books for cheap (or free!) Here are just a few ideas:

  • Garage Sales– People usually always have children’s books at garage sales and you can usually find them for pretty good prices. We always make sure to let the seller know that we’re teachers, and that we’ll be using the books for our classroom library, and they usually give us a better deal. Sometimes they even let us have them for free! Another great idea is to leave your contact information with them and ask for them to donate anything that they don’t sell after their sale is over.
  • Scholastic Book Orders– Our students always love when they see a new Scholastic book order in their mailboxes! It’s really easy to sign up to receive these and you can earn free book credits for the books your students purchase.
  • Scholastic Warehouse Sales– If one of these is being held near you, you have to go! Basically, Scholastic rents out a warehouse and sells tons and tons of books DIRT CHEAP! You can also volunteer to help during the sale and receive a discount on the books you purchase.
  • Other Teachers– Check with the other teachers at your school or in your district. Retiring teachers are often looking for new homes for their books. Other times, teachers will go through their own libraries and weed out any titles they don’t need or have multiple copies of.
  • Your Local Library– See if your local library ever holds sales for books that aren’t in circulation anymore. Many times they will have a “Fill a Bag” sale where you can buy as many books as you can fit in a grocery bag for a low price. You can find a sale near you here!
  • Ask your Friends and Family– If you have friends that have older kids than the grade that you teach, then they probably have books that their kids have outgrown just laying around. I’m sure they would love to donate them where they would be put to use again.
  • Birthday Books– If your school has strict rules about students bringing in treats for their birthday, then ask them to donate a book to your classroom library instead. You can even let them sign a special “Birthday Book Plate” to place inside. To make them feel extra special, let the Birthday Kid do a book talk, or read the book to the class first.
  • Check Facebook– This may sound like an odd combination, but Facebook has tons of selling groups and “virtual yard sales.” You can even check for groups in your area to make pick up quick and easy.
  • Target Dollar Spot or Dollar Tree– No explanation necessary! 🙂
  • Donor’s Choose– This is a great website where teachers can create a project, and others can choose to donate any dollar amount to help them fund their idea.

Ok, so now you’re swimming in books and you probably look something like this:

classroom library

Stock Up on Matching Baskets/Containers

The fun has just begun, time to organize! The first thing you’ll want to do is stock up on matching baskets to house your books.

We love these from Really Good Stuff and we love them because they’re so heavy duty, but they are a bit of an investment. If you’re on a budget, Dollar Tree and Target have excellent options too. Just make sure to pick a color (or two if you want to separate Fiction and Non-fiction) that makes you happy!

Also, make sure that you purchase some bins that are skinnier (for chapter books) and some that are wider (for picture books). We’ve found that the best bins for picture books are actually dish pans and they’re usually cheap too!

Decide How You Will Organize Your Library

Once you have books and bins, you have to decide how you want to organize. We decided to organize by genre because we feel that it’s more real life and how kids would see books organized if they walked into a bookstore.

We also want our third graders to practice finding “just right books” on their own. Other options could be: by subject/theme, series, or leveled by reading ability. It really doesn’t matter how you decide to organize as long as you stay consistent and think about what will work best for the age of students you teach.

Label, Label, Label

So now all of your books have a home in a bin! It’s time to label those bins so your students can find books easily AND put them away correctly. There are lots and lots of options for library labels on Teachers Pay Teachers (11,034 of them to be exact!) We purchased these labels from Core Inspiration by Laura Santos because we loved the style, and she included everything we needed. You can find labels that match your classroom theme or colors as well. You’ll want to print these out on cardstock or photo paper to make them a little more durable and also laminate them as well.

classroom library

It will take a while to cut all of those out, so prepare yourself with snacks and get ready to Binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix. Once they’re all cut out, you’re ready to attach them to your bins. We like to hot glue them on because it’s fast, easy and the labels stay put all year. You could also use velcro or packing tape works well too.

The final piece to your beautiful organized library puzzle is to add a coordinating label to the front of each book in your library. This way, students can easily see where each book belongs and will (hopefully) put it back in the correct bin!

Which brings us to the FREE resource we have for you. In order for your students to know how to “shop” for books, they need to know the different genres. Use our Reading Genre Bingo Game to help your students review the different types of genres. Click below to grab it!

classroom library

Congratulations! Hopefully you now have (or will have) a beautiful, organized and functional classroom library! We hope you’ve found this post to be helpful. If you have any library tips to add, please leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

If you are looking for some great picture books that are perfect for the beginning of the year, check out our blog post below.

classroom library

Subscribe to our newsletter for special content, free resources, and discounts!


  1. My library is always changing so I feel like I'm always organizing it. Great ideas on how to find books! I love Scholastic because then we can get more books for free.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *