Getting Books Back at the End of Year

As a new librarian it’s my second time ever collecting books back at the end of the school year.  Last June was a newbie blur so when I set a goal to be more purposeful in getting books back, I decided to ask other librarians for advice on how to do it right.  I reached out to colleagues on the local listserv, the national listserv, and Twitter.  I got so many thoughtful responses from hardworking librarians all over our country. I am truly grateful to be a part of this profession surrounded by individuals who are so willing to help.

It seems that middle schools and high schools have clear patron records tied to end-of-year activities to get books back:

  • yearbooks held until books returned
  • report cards held until books returned
  • blank diploma and transcripts withheld until books returned
  • Field Day entrance withheld until books returned

I am in a grades 4 and 5 building and would like to make the process as positive and motivating as possible. There are many incentives librarians give out to classes who get all of their books back:

  • Ice pops/popsicles
  • Sign saying “We brought all of our books back!” to post on the classroom door
  • Students choose from treasure box filled with bulk items from places like Oriental Trading and the Dollar Store
  • Poster raffle for those who return all
  • Free book raffle for those who return all
  • Bookstore gift card raffle for those who return all
  • 3 minute beach ball fight in the library
  • Party for first class to get all books in
  • Extra recess for first class to get all books in
  • Movie in the library
  • Announcing class that turns in all books on morning announcements
  • having interactions with students to encourage them to bring books back
  • having students call home to leave a message to have family members help them return the books

Here are a few other creative ideas librarians and an administrator came up with:

  • an amnesty roundup
  • told kids they’d get a surprise and rigged the book drop to sound like Cookie Monster
  • a white board with a silly poem and the running total of books still out for everyone to see
  • one dresses as a cowgirl for the book roundup
  • one dresses as a book fairy to get books back
  • a high poverty school uses proceeds from the book fair to cover the cost of lost books
  • one reports that she shows this parody for a chuckle:
  • someone created a list of places to look for books

I decided to incorporate a few of these motivators into my end of year process:

The first fourth grade and first fifth grade class to get all their books in will earn an extra recess for a whole class period and their teachers will get an extra prep period.  (I will happily give up a prep to get books back). This gives the students and the adults incentive!  I am keeping a daily running total of books by classroom so students can see how far they are away from their extra recess goal (see picture below).

I print out the classroom report of books still out and ask teachers to post it somewhere in the classroom so students can cross off titles as they return for accountability.

I have a whiteboard with the running total of books still out so all can see (see pics of days one and two below).  I also make a morning announcement with the running total and give some hints of places to look for books.

Each morning I make an announcement telling how many books are back and when a homeroom wins the extra recess.  I end the announcement with 8 places they can look for missing books (see list above for ideas)

Next week any student with a clear patron record will get to enter their name into a raffle for a bookstore gift certificate.

I decided to try it with staff too. Any staff member with a clear patron record will get to enter their name into a raffle for a Dunkin Donuts card. Adults get pretty charged up about a raffle too!

The kids are really enjoying the “bring your books back parody” video (mentioned above). I highly recommend it!FullSizeRender (67)FullSizeRender (69)FullSizeRender (68)

In just two days students brought 341 books back.  There’s no picture yet but tomorrow’s book total is 777.  This means we went from 1,465 to 777 in three days! I think it’s safe to say they’re very excited about winning an extra recess!

Many thanks to all who provided responses.

I hope your end of year process goes well. I look forward to learning and connecting with you!

Melanie Roy



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