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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Organize Your Classroom Library...finally!

I've been looking for a library organization system from the time that I started my journey into teaching a few years ago. I want my classroom environment to immerse students in a literature rich environment, and books are are big part of that culture. I've spent considerable time (and of course money) to build a library worthy of my students varied interests and pursuits. I've obtained books from garage sales, library sales, parent donations, and traditional booksellers. For my students, quality, variety and significant quantities are good things.

However, for their teacher, the challenges of an ever-expanding offerings has always been problematic:
  • How do I keep track of all the titles, genres, and quantities of each title?
  • How do I effectively manage location change? What titles are in THAT box up in storage?
  • How do I make sure I don't over-duplicate titles?
  • Isn't there an easier way to log books into your 'system' or scan items in without spending $400 for a infrared scanner and the corollary software and tags to make it work?
  • How do I know which books are in need of replacement?
  • What do students think of a particular title? What's the latest buzz book?
  • If a student checks a book out, how can I be sure to get it back?
  • Who has all of our books?!
  • and so on. If you are a teacher, you know the list of problems is much, much longer.
I've tried excel spreadsheets (too confusing to parent helpers and labor intensive) and Beth Newingham's system (not self sustaining enough for me), but never really found what I was looking for. Cue the U2 music, that is until The Booksource announced the launch of their Classroom Organizer earlier this year.

The Booksource is a family owned and operated bookseller located in St Louis. I've followed them on Twitter for a while, since they always seemed to have great book recommendations and always seemed supportive of teachers. I like that.

What caught my eye with this particular library organization system, was their goal to help classroom teachers organize and manage their libraries. The cincher was the accompanying app that allowed the user to scan books into their library using their phone. I was one of the first 50 to sign up for the application and register on the site. The Booksource sent those early adopters a small promotional pack as a thanks. (not in exchange for or to provide an impetus for this post)

I've been using Classroom Organizer for a couple of months now and there are several features that has solidified its position as my chosen system for organizing my 2000+ volumes in my library (about 1/2 are boxed up and rotated in/out out the classroom stock). I like it so much that it was chosen as the topic of March's Tech Tuesday PD session that I host for my fellow building teachers.

Classroom Organizer features:
  • Easy entry of books into a central database. Stored in the cloud, it is customizable with several teacher-friendly options that allow organization of books by author, fiction/non-fiction, Lexile/AR or guided reading level among many others. All choices can be set by the teacher.
  • Allows teachers to set up library rules on checkout length, number of books allowed out, and more.
  • Allows teachers to track book condition to help be proactive towards repair or to help budget for replacement.
  • Easy maintainable locations and can be changed as needed due to student interest and usage.
  • Easy title management, along with quantity indicators to avoid duplication, with an easy to use Administration section.
  • That allow students to rate books and enter reviews of books that they have read, which remains tied to the book for use by future students. How cool is that?!
  • That allow students to easily check-in/check-out books on their own. Overdue notices can be sent to teacher or student email as reminders.
  • Creation of student checkout reports by levels, groups, checkout frequency, number of books checked out, and mix of non-fiction to fiction checked out by students.
  • The use of a smartphone (Droid or iPhone) to scan in books into their library. Although more an art than a science, once scanned, book information (title, etc) is uploaded  automatically. Scanning efficiency may depend on your device (my wife's LG Optimus works better that my Motorola Expert), but once you get 'rolling' it goes pretty smoothly. One of my iPhone teachers reported no issues after the PD session. Update 7/29/12 The app's latest update greatly increases scanning speed. I was able to move through about 125 titles in about 50 minutes as I watched the Olympics volleyball match. A noticeable and welcome improvement. Additionally, our of those books I only had to manually input (1) book. It appears that The Booksource's database is very large and has very little difficulty finding the book information that corresponds to the published ISBN.
    Like this

Book Input is an attractive alternative to gloomy wintry recesses and can allow a teacher to take advantage of cheap labor.

Classroom setup is easy with the use of excel files (.csv format) and teachers can easily setup reading groups, lit circles, and book clubs.

Library Rules are set up by the teacher and guide student checkout.
Reports - The power of the system can be realized with the reports that can be generated to help teachers keep their library relevant and monitor book usage.
I have found The Booksource 's support to be very responsive and useful as well, which is nice thing to know for teachers who might have questions. They are also very receptive to feedback.

I think you'll find that Classroom Organizer has a lot of well thought out features that will help classroom teachers enhance their classroom's culture of reading and give their teacher back some much needed time.
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  1. It is both a remote control program which can use the scanner to "take" pictures, or to receive them, when you press a button on the scanner or one of its optionally attached accessories, like the hand button or foot pedal.

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