Substitutes in the Library

When I first became a librarian, I was lucky enough to have an assistant.  She was WONDERFUL, and often helped me shelve books that were returned while I taught the lesson.  When budget cuts took away that position, I had to find ways to adapt without going crazy!  One way was to teach the students to help me when they returned their books.  So, I spray painted the book cart with the four colors that matched the signs of the sections in the library.

Each time they came as a class to return their books, we practiced following the steps.  We reviewed how to use their book’s call number and the chart to figure out where to place their books.  That conversation went something like this:  
Me: “What kind of book are you returning?”
Student 1: “Umm….an “E” for “Everybody”!
Me:  “Great!  What shelf does it go on?”
Student 1:  “Umm….the blue shelf!”
Me: “And what kind of book do you have?”
Student 2: “It has numbers.”
Me:  “Wonderful.  Numbers means Non-Fiction.  What shelf will you put it on?”
Student 2:  “The green shelf!”
Most classes picked up on it pretty easily, but we are still working with Kindergarten!  This is my second year using this system, and all in all, it has helped tremendously! 

To help create some consistency with students, I designated one computer as the “Check-In” computer, and the other as the “Check-Out” computer.  I also created these reminder sheets that I placed by the two computers to help them remember the steps of what to do.  

Before I got hired as a librarian, I was a 3rd grade teacher for 16 years, and I learned early on to have a “bag of tricks” and back-up plans just in case the students finished their work earlier than anticipated.  This was even more important if I was out, so I always went way overboard in planning for a substitute.  

Now that I’m a librarian, it seems like it’s even harder to plan for a substitute, especially when it’s an unexpected illness!  There are so many “technical” things that need to be done that are hard to explain to someone, especially if they aren’t “technical” themselves!

So this year, I decided to tackle this problem head-on and create a series of documents that would show step by step instructions for everything that they would need to do.  

First, I created a template for my substitute plans to include the multitude of information that goes with each grade level’s lesson.



Then I made directions to help them turn on the laptop which I often use with a projector to conduct lessons on technology. 


Finally, I created some directions on how to shelve books in each of our library’s different sections, just in case the substitute has never shelved books before. 



Updated 8/2016:  My students have gotten pretty good at checking books in and out, so this year I created new signs that are not quite as detailed, but are there in case they forget or for new students who need help knowing what to do.
Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 7.34.54 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 7.34.43 PM
I put all of these documents here at my TpT store in case you might find them helpful.  Most of them are word documents so that you can manipulate them to fit your needs, but some are PDF’s due to the licensing agreements on the clipart.

2 Responses to “Substitutes in the Library”

  1. Kathryn

    I just love all your organizational materials!! (I am currently working on unzipping this file from TPT) What I wanted to ask about is your signage…I am looking for a better way to help the students find things on the shelves. I don't really like a lot of the ones I have seen to purchase. I have gotten some ideas from MsO Reads Books blog and TPT site to try, but I am also afraid to spend too much money and then still not be satisfied. Anyway, I wondered how you have things labeled? Thank you!

  2. Sandy Karas Liptak

    I used several "tricks" to help me with this problem.

    1) I had a lot of science/social studies/math posters from teaching 3rd grade, so I hung them up over the non-fiction section. This way, when a student asked me where to find dinosaur books, I could just say "Go look where the dinosaur poster is and check the shelves under the poster." This also helped for my lower-grade kiddos.

    2) The library already had those shelf labels on each shelf (like the ones you see here at so I typed up the Dewey ranges for each shelf.

    3) I also put several small pictures of certain animals on the book shelf so that the lower grades could find those books without my help. I went with pictures of animals that were requested A LOT such as snakes, dinosaurs, sharks, bobcats (our mascot), insects (ladybugs, worms, etc.) This year I'm adding pictures for the car section, dogs, cats, horses, and space since those were asked for a lot this past year.

    4) I also have another whole bookcase in 8 sections that finishes my NF section. It's not backed up against a wall, so I purchased some double sided sign holders (like these and created a sign that shows the dewey ranges for that shelf, with pictures of topics found there for my younger kiddos.

    5) The last thing I did was also put the Dewey 100's numbers on the shelf where that hundred section began. (or I put the letters of the alphabet in the Everybody section).

    You can see these things in the picture of the "How to Shelve Non Fiction Books" poster that I made for the substitute.

    Hope this helps! 🙂


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