Kindergarten Checkout Strategies

I’ve been getting my checkout strategies finished before I head back to work at the end of next week. Like the rest of you, I’m trying to keep my to do list from getting out of control!

My strategy for organizing student library cards from last year worked really well. To recap, each student has a bookmark with one label that says their grade and teacher and another label with their student barcode and a label protector. The cards are organized in a flash card pocket chart. Students can find their card from the pocket or if there are a lot of students from one class coming in then we lay them out on a table. Students use their card to checkout and then drop it in a basket at the circulation desk. We count the cards each day to track the number of patrons coming to check out books and then refile them into the pocket chart. Counting and refiling takes less than a minute and we do it about three times a day.

At the end of the year I emailed our Kindergarten teachers to say that I wanted to significantly increase Kinder visits to the library. I want them to visit the library 3-5 times a week for checkout. I identified two things that are factors: opportunity and book organization. I’ve asked teachers to think of ways they can increase the opportunities in their classroom to visit the library. Ideas: visit the library right after lunch, walking the entire class through the library. Those that need books can quickly check them out while the others stay in line. Or, add a library center to their Reading Center time.

We also need to better organize student book returns. Kinders are less likely to know if they have returned their book and need a new one. Ideas: print a daily list of checkouts after book return time is over in the morning. Use drawstring bags with student names. Empty bag=needs a book.

I am open to additional ideas, but from feedback we decided to definitely try the bags with student names. I am crossing my finger that not too many go missing. Students will keep their library book in the bag. Teachers will collect library books from the bag. They will turn in the books, but keep the bags. These will be the students who need to visit the library that day. They will come to the library with their empty bag and choose a new book. I’ve done this before with PreKindergarten students, but with two very self-contained classes. Not with four Kindergarten classes in an open checkout schedule. I can’t wait!

In the picture you can see that I picked out Eric Carle drawstring bags. I made sure to buy enough to have extras, just in case. I also bought a roll of duct tape for each class to color code. We’ll write student names on the stripe we’re adding to each bag. 

I have really strong opinions about book checkout, and about Kindergarten checkout in particular. We do it on their first library visit. I really want to grow our readers from the first days they are in the school. I think these strategies to increase their circulation will be a positive step forward. I’ll certainly keep you posted about how it works! 

Here are the new library cards for all of our students! And that cheering you hear? It’s me–checking off one more task from my to do list!


  1. That’s a great idea, using different themed bookmarks for each class so you can immediately know what class it belongs to. My assistant and I have also struggled for many years, trying to come up with the best checkout strategy. Last year went really well and we’ll try it again this year. Grades K-2 make their own library cards during the 2nd library visit. On one side we’ve put their names and their student ID number, which is the same number they use to buy lunch. We also code the cards with the first initial of the teacher’s last name and the grade so we can refile them easily. The kids decorate the other side of the index card. After morning returns, my assistant types in the student ID of each student (annoyingly our system cannot run “real time” reports by class – not until the next day which is of no use). For grades 1, 1/2 and 2, we write right on the card how many books they can check out. Kinders can either check out a book or not since they only check out one per week. We put the cards in a pocket chart and the students can check to see if they can check out or how many…helps them to learn their names, too! It seems time intensive, but it really doesn’t take more than about five minutes. We gave up printing records with complicated numbering systems or calling out the student names, etc., etc., and it is so much less cumbersome. Always love seeing how other people handle their circulation – thanks! {P.S. The students bring their cards up to the desk and punch in their student ID number. Most kids have it memorized by first grade!}

    • Meant to sign off as…

    • I used to have my students learn their lunch numbers until our District went to 14 digit ID numbers instead of 4. This district uses 6, which I think is manageable. I used to not mind when the students typed in their number, but now that I count cards I like that data. I love the idea of the cards being laminated so you can write on them! That might be another strategy to communicate with the classroom teacher who needs to visit for books!

  2. Sounds like a great system! Have to figure out how we could tweak it … if the charts would hang properly on columns instead of a real wall. We have 6 kinder classes, I think. Maybe 7.

    We make cards on the second visit and check out. We don’t get barcodes until the circ system is all loaded with student ids and that doesn’t happen right away. Not going to wait for them to come until it does! The older kids can come on their own on the second day of school. If they’re old enough to pronounce their names we just write them down.

    Do you have lots of volunteers or are you a super shelver with all your increased circulation? I am between a rock and a hard place with some “renovation” they did to the hallway (makes the hallway look spirited but it totally messes up our shelves!) that’s going to make shelving take even longer. Still trying to figure it out. I love your idea and many of our kiddos DO come more often than once a week … but not all of them by far. Would LOVE to increase that but we were floundering on keeping up with shelving as it was … before they had to go and make it that much harder!

    (Fussy librarian doesn’t like people taking all the space for our second entry/exit point so kiddos don’t have to walk through the teaching area to get to the everybody area. Also for shelving or getting at non-fic books on the other side of the shelves? It’s like 30 feet to get around. And that’s one direction. If your book was in the wrong place that would make 60 extra feet you now have to go because the entry/exit point is gone. Am I the most persnickety librarian or what to be mad. Or lose … 10-12 feet of shelving unit, 3 shelves on one side, 2 on the other. That’s what 50 feet of shelving to recreate the second entry/exit point? All because “You can’t cover up the hawk on the tile floor!” :X)

    • I know exactly what you mean about increasing circulation! I want the library busier, but can we handle it? We do have me and a full-time library assistant so we can handle the increased circulation. It’s the increase in traffic that I was worried about. Until I found out that we probably won’t have to teach reading groups this year. I think taking away 5 reading groups will help us be more available for the students who visit!

      I had more trouble shelving when I asked for books to be returned when the students came for class. Now that they return them first thing in the morning it’s easier to get them all checked in and on our carts within the first 45 minutes of the day.

      You’re allowed to be a fussy librarian. You know what works for your students. You can’t mess around with shelf space! That stuff is golden!

  3. We check out K student books in the teacher’s name and the books stay at school. It simplifies the book browsing and checkout process for 30 K students per class during their 50 minute fixed schedule class. I feel it allows for a more relaxed browsing and checkout time since there is no pressure to checkout to each student, however I’m feeling guilty that they do not take their chosen book home each week (procedure before I arrived at the school two years ago). Teachers rotate the books checked out within the classroom so all have an opportunity to read/browse – I do like that. One step towards improvement is to have them come in more than once a week. I’d love suggestions and feedback. Thanks, Carolyn for this wonderful post! Mrs. Crook

    • I used to check out books to the teachers that the student would browse through, but these were for book choice boxes in the classroom. I do really love that idea. (I’m going to have to promote it to my current crop of teachers!)

      But I also like for all students to take books home. Some of them use the public library already. To me it’s a bit like Dumbledore in Harry Potter, “you were too young then, and then, and then, so I didn’t tell you.”

      We’re all different though and shaped by our experiences. I had parents who used the public library with me from the time I was tiny. When I moved in middle school and all of a sudden I wasn’t using the school library, my mom wanted to know why. It wasn’t open except for during language arts and our teacher wasn’t taking us regularly. I believe she made a phone call and my sister and I had library access. That’s why I want to send the message of “Welcome to our school! This is our fabulous library for our families. Your student will be checking out a book so they can bring it home and you can read together!”

      I try to send that message and then deal with the bit of chaos that Kinder checkout does create in different ways that are more behind the scenes.

  4. I bought canvas bags that I hang on the teacher’s doorknob the day before they have Library. I have trained the kids (& the teachers, LOL) to bring back the bags of returned books first thing in the morning. I even have a sign with an arrow pointing to the floor in front of the circulation desk, in case I am not in the room. I check in all the books (a lot of work…but not taking up any instructional time). For checkout, I am able to run reports of class lists of bar codes, which I keep in a binder by class. Kids need to give me their first and last name, and I quickly check out the books (P.S. I have teachers’ bar codes in the back of the binder).

    • Sounds like a great strategy that works well for you! As time has gone by my favorite strategy is used by one teacher in my school who sends all of her students in groups of 4 every day to checkout books, regardless of if they returned them or not. I love it that I get to see these students in the library every day!

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