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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tried It Tuesday {Organizing a Classroom Library}

I know many of you are back to school so I am posting a combination throwback post with ideas for organizing your classroom library. I found furniture for mine on a budget!
What have you tried at school or home?
If you've never linked up with Tried It Tuesday, just link up any idea school or home related and what worked or didn't work. Grab the button below. Simple!
My Tried It:
Organizing a Classroom Library
When I taught 6th grade, I was teaching social studies for a few years and then math for five.  Having a large classroom library was not a top priority.  Then, eight years ago I switched to fourth grade and slowly started collecting books through yard sales, ebay, and donations.  My library has grown every year and this summer I decided that I really wanted to transform it by organizing my books in bins.

There are so many amazing classroom libraries all over the internet.  I have drooled over them, especially this library from Beth Newingham's Scholastic blog post from way back in 2009!  I just love those bookcases and baskets.  The bookcases line up so neatly and you can tell they are great quality.

In addition to not having as many books as I would like, one of my other problems was that I didn't have  amazing sturdy bookcases that line up nice and neat in my room.  
Last summer I bought a cheap bookcase for more storage from WalMart ($15) and it broke by the end of the year.
Back in the summer of 2013, I found two bookcases at local yard sales and they were both very sturdy.  One was $5 and the other was $7.  However, they were different colors and mismatched, so I knew I would have to paint them.  I decided to go with black because I found some bright bins at the Dollar Tree (for $1 each of course) that would just "pop" against the black.
I got to work priming the bookcases.

These mini foam rollers really do a nice job making the work a little easier.
Next, I used an acrylic black gloss paint.

Then, I went to work in my room painting two other bookcases.  A friend gave me the tall bookcase.  This one is not as sturdy as the other three but it makes a good corner piece.  The other bookcase is school grade quality and super sturdy.
There was one shelf that was not removable in the tall bookcase.  The others were removed and painted on a flat surface using the same foam mini roller.
I am not even sure how many hours I spent painting these four bookcases, but it was many!  Each bookcase took THREE coats of the black paint!  Painting the little nooks and crannies in the "ABCD" bookcase was a complete pain too.  However, they looked awesome when I was done.  So, you can just imagine how disappointed I was when I placed these book bins on the shelves and they scratched the paint and were like sticking to the paint!  The original two bookcases had been drying for like a month and the other two were only drying for two days.  But still!!!  What was I going to do?

My first solution was to spray this Mod Podge adhesive on the shelves to "protect" them from scratches.
It covered the shelves okay but I couldn't spray many coats because it was the stinkiest, toxic stuff on the planet and unless I wanted to haul all the bookcases outside, I wasn't going to be spraying that anymore!  Next, I tried my trusty varnish from my mod podge projects.  I brushed it on the top of each shelf with a foam disposable brush.
I let it dry a few days, went back to school and loaded the bins back on the shelves.  

The varnish has seemed to work and the bins don't "stick" anymore.  I am nervous about how it will hold up to student usage though.  UPDATE: Now in 2015, the bins have held up beautifully! I haven't touched them up a bit and there are a few marks here and there in the paint but nothing major! Those fourth graders can sure be tough on furniture and I will have all fifty 4th graders using my library this year since we are departmentalizing.

My books also have color coded labels on the binding (sealed with shipping tape) according to their AR (Accelerated Reading) level. Each grade level is a different color.
I attached my editable owl book bin labels using shipping/packaging tape and that has held up great except on these small "holey" bins (all my bins are from the Dollar Tree).  I don't know why I didn't think of it before, but the dust collected on the tape through the little holes and the labels started falling off! I am a tad anal and it was very annoying.
My solution?  I went back to the Dollar Tree and bought these replacement bins (no holes!).  I'm just glad I could find some that they had in stock that matched my other bins and were small enough for this shelf.  Now, there are no holes and the labels should stay put! UPDATE: Now two school years later, I haven't had to replace the shipping tape that I used to secure the labels on any of the bins! I know many teacher laminate and hot glue the bins or hook them on with hooks. I just like to have things flat and no curling edges or things poking out. I'm just a little weird like that. :) It is amazing that they have held up so well though!
I was also worried that the bins would end up in a disarray on the shelves.  I snapped these photos yesterday without straightening the bins on the shelves and they look passable by my standards!  I talk to the students about putting the book bins back neatly and they have listened for the most part. :)  
In addition to these owl themed book bin labels, I also have Bright Chevron, Bright Polka Dot, Superhero, and Zebra themed labels in my TpT Store. They all include two sizes of labels and are editable to add labels of your choice!



  1. Your library looks great! I agree about the "holey" bins and dust. They can get really disgusting!


  2. I love your black book cases. My classroom colors are black, yellow and green. I may have to paint my book shelves that are not black right now, black this next summer. Yours really looked great. Thanks for sharing.
    Mrs. Flickinger's Butterfly Oasis