Red Tape

The following idea is not new and is not mine. I’m just good at theft.

Do you want to be a librarian who makes sure every child leaves the library with a book if they want one?

Do you find yourself being a librarian who says, “sweetie, you need to look for that other book first before you get this new one.”

I get a variety of responses to this type of question. “I turned that in months ago.” “I never checked that book out.” “It’s in my desk?” (Love those question types.)

I had a breakthrough at one of our district meetings. Yay for librarians who share ideas!!! I now have a Red Tape Shelf (that needs a better name, and okay, really needs an actual shelf….).

The Red Tape Shelf has books that have been returned to the library but are not library books and I cannot find their owner, discarded books, and donated books. Each book has a strip of colored duct tape on the spine and a sticker on the front cover (or you could use the inside fly paper). When a student cannot get a book for some reason, they are invited to choose one from the Red Tape Shelf. These books are not checked out nor tracked in circulation. If they make it back to the library because of their bright spines then that’s great. If not, then that’s okay too. The stickers say “From the Library. Read me, Share me & Return me!”

If you have the “Every Student Who Wants a Book Gets a Book” ideal then a shelf of old books with colored duct tape spines may be a way you can turn philosophy into reality!


  1. I have collected books like you’ve done and set them on a cart in a back room. I call them my Borrowed Books and I’ve written BB Library on the cover with permanent marker. When students are in the situation you’ve described, I tell them to choose a book from the Borrowed Book cart. I write down the title and their name on a paper I keep with their class folder so I can ask about the book the following weeks. Your idea of it not mattering if it comes back is somewhere I need to get. Some students don’t bring back their borrowed book and I’m again telling them they need to bring it back before getting another – so I’m back to square one. I think I’ll steal this idea of the red tape and the label. But…I do like the sound of Borrowed Book Library, so will keep that as well. Thanks!

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