Saturday, March 2, 2019

Demystifying the Circulation Desk: Library Center Deep Dive 2/10

Demystifying the Circulation Desk 

Library Helper Center 

Library Helper Center is the easiest center to put together. Most of the supplies you need are right there at the circulation desk. The kids are excited to be the librarian for the day. Plus, you get some much needed assistance.

As with all Library Learning Centers there needs to be clear learning objectives. The main learning objectives students learn at the Library Helper Center include:

  • Dewey Decimal System
  • Genrification
  • Shelf Appearance
  • Book Check Out Procedure
  • Creating Holds
  • Student Privacy Guidelines
  • Customer Service
  • Book Processing
  • Library Displays
  • Other Duties as Needed

The basic Library Helper Center tasks that all students in grades K-5 are expected to do include:

  • Take all returned books out of the book drop and move them onto the book cart
  • Get one center at a time to check out their books
  • Assist students with checking out their books
  • Good customer service
  • Student Privacy Guidelines

These five tasks are the bare basics that I start with for Kindergarteners in the Library Helper Center. If there is time remaining after all students have checked out their books Kindergarten will sort books on the book cart. This gives me a chance to talk to them about the Dewey Decimal System and genrification and why books go in certain places in the library. I find that teaching just 3-5 students at a time makes this task not only more manageable but more meaningful as well.

First and second grades continue building on previously learned skills adding in shelving Everybody books and filling shelf gaps.

3rd grade builds from there adding in shelving books in our “special” genre section.

4th grade branches out to shelving fiction books and 5th grade adds on the shelving of non fiction.

All grade levels assist with other tasks including book processing, helping to create library displays, and other tasks a librarian may need to do. Recently our sweet library helpers collated and stapled informational flyers to be sent home with students about our upcoming Book Fair. They also helped make tissue paper flowers for our February LOVE display.

Dewey Decimal System, Genrification, Shelving, and Shelf Appearance

I am a big proponent of John Dewey’s principle of learning by doing. Teaching students the why and how of shelving books goes hand in hand with learning the Dewey Decimal System, Genrified sections, and the appearance of shelves.

One thing I have always disliked in the library is the use of paint sticks (or any other item) as student shelf markers. To me, they make finding a book cumbersome, a chore, and down right stressful. Instead of using shelf markers I have “I Changed My Mind” bins at the ends of each shelving unit. If a student removes a book from the shelf and then decides it is not the book for them they simply place it in the bin. Easy peasy. Other students often find the books they are looking for in the bins so it is a win-win for everyone.

So, what does the abolishment of paint sticks have to do with learning the Dewey Decimal System, Genrified sections, and the appearance of shelves?


As students learn in the Library Helper Center why books are shelved in certain locations the rest falls into place. Recently, I observed a 1st grade Library Helper assist another student with finding the Elephant & Piggie books. He knew, from actually shelving the books, where they were located and why.

Shelf appearance also comes into play when teaching kids how to shelve books using Dewey Order or Genres. All of us who have been librarians for any length of time have had that kid who pushes all of the books to the very back of the shelf and proudly exclaims, “Look! I fixed the books for you!” Explaining while doing will help nip this little library quirk.

When teaching kids how to shelve books in the Library Helper Center, especially fiction and nonfiction books, we have a chance to actually talk about how the shelves look and how that can make shelving books easy or hard.

“When you shelved that book what made it easy?”

“When you shelved that book what made it hard?”

The most common answer to both of these is the ability to see the spine labels. If books are pushed all the way to the back it is difficult to see the spine labels and a tedious process to put the books in their place. It also makes it difficult for someone wanting those books to see them. Likewise, when the books are blocked it is easier to find and shelve.

Filling in the Gaps

Filling in the gaps with books from that section not only makes your library look full of wonderful books to read but is an awesome advertising tool. Actually being able to see the covers of books in the various sections of the library makes locating the books you want that much easier for students.

Book Check Out Procedure

The overarching theme of the Library Helper Center is good customer service and setting an example of good behavior for the rest of the class.

Library Helpers are the first center to check out books. Once Library Helpers have checked out their own books, they prompt students at each center, one center at a time, to check out their books. This keeps the number of students checking out books to just 3-5 students at a time. This is the perfect time to teach Library Helpers how to assist students with using the search computer, locating books, and with placing books on hold if needed.

Kindergarten students have a library card that they scan when checking out their books.

Kindergarten Library Helpers follow a little script:

  • Please scan your card
  • Please scan your book
  • Please scan the reset card
  • Please go back to your center

By directing other students through the book check out process, Library Helpers are also solidifying their own understanding of the process as well.

First, Second, and Third grade Library Helpers assist students in learning their library number for checking out books. There is a printed list of each class, the students in that class, and each student’s library number at the circulation desk for students to use if they haven’t memorized their number yet. Since Library Helpers have access to student information, this is when and where we address student privacy and the responsibility that goes along with being a Library Helper.

There is little need for Fourth and Fifth grade Library Helpers to be tied to the circulation desk as most students are self sufficient by these grade levels. This frees these students up for shelving books, processing books, creating library displays, and working on other library related tasks.

If you are thinking of trying out centers in your library I definitely recommend starting with the Library Helper Center!

Original post that started it all:
Links no longer work as my former district set up their Google admin rules to permanently delete rather than transfer former employee accounts.

Library Deep Dive Part 1 of 10:

Library Deep Dive Part 2 of 10:

Library Deep Dive Part 3 of 10:

Library Deep Dive Part 4 of 10:

Library Deep Dive Part 5 of 10:

Library Deep Dive Part 6 of 10:
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Library Deep Dive Part 7 of 10:
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Library Deep Dive Part 8 of 10:
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Library Deep Dive Part 9 of 10:
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Library Deep Dive Part 10 of 10:
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