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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Operation Makeover: Classroom Library (Part 1)

Here we are, two weeks away from going back to work, and I still have no idea what I am planning to do with my classroom library.  How did this happen?  How did the summer just leap away from me like that?  This always happens! We jump into summer like an Olympian going for gold on the diving board and once we are in that water, we don’t come back up until it’s time to go back to school.  That is nothing to be stressed about, right?  We earned it after being in school 175+ days last year!  If this library disorganization has happened to you too, then breathe a little easier because I am going to shed a little bit of light on your library troubles. 

When I was a first year teacher, I didn’t have a lot of books.  The books I had were books I found at garage sales, my personal childhood collection, or were donated from friends and family.  However, as any teacher knows, anything we collect grows in mass proportions in no time.  That first year, I could barely fill a book shelf and now I am purchasing more shelves to give me a total of five bookshelves and two rolling carts (donated last year from a former librarian).  When I had so few books, everything was organized in a nice little bin.  It was easy!  As the collection grew, it became a lot harder to keep track of.  Last year I found myself in the library hunting for books without any luck.  I don’t want to deal with that kind of headache this year.  It’s time to get organized!
In my first year, I used SAMLA bins that my mom had bought me from Ikea.  They weren’t that great, but they did the job for my first year.  After that, I changed out tubs that I had purchased at the dollar store, but they took a beating and many of them ended up breaking very quickly.  I love using bright colors for my book bins because my bookshelves are so dark.  It just stands out and looks kind of nice (I think).  This year, I’m on the hunt for book bins that are (a) affordable and (b) going to last longer than a year with my kids.  I have 7 and 8 year olds in my room and sometimes things break.  They are more shocked than I am when that dollar store tub breaks apart or cracks. 

Walmart - Set of 2 for $38

So here is the deal, my shelves are from Walmart and are only 9” deep.  A lot of the book bins that I’ve found have been around 10” deep.  A little over hang should be fine and I’m not that worried about it.  My shelves are also about 23” wide.  Whenever you’re looking for bins, it’s extremely important to figure out what sizes are going to work for your classroom.  Also, set a budget for yourself and decide that you’re not going to go over that budget.  This year, since I am trying to upgrade to some bins that I can use more long term; I am trying to keep my budget around $100.  Yeah, that’s a lot of money, but I’m not making a lot of other purchases for my room this year and I don’t want to keep replacing them.  Lastly, think about if you want your covers showing or not.  In my room, it doesn’t exactly matter because my kids pull the bins out to find a book anyway.  Here is what I've narrowed my options down to...
Really Good Stuff: Classroom Stacking Bins $14.99/set when buying 3+
So lets get down to business and talk specs.  This set of four is from Really Good Stuff (LOVE) and comes in colors that coordinate with what I've got going on in my classroom.  I would definitely have to buy about 6 sets of these (approx. $90) and the size dimensions should fit my shelves.  I could turn them in different ways based on how I'm using them.  The cost is nice and breaks down to about $3.75/bin.  Plus, I'm pretty sure a coworker has some of these and I could try them out on my shelves before I buy them.  Trying before I buy is a huge bonus!
Steps to Literacy: Plastic Book Bins $14.21/set
These are kind of cute and the shape seems pretty nice.  I like that these are a little big cheaper than bins found on Really Good Stuff, but I'm not sure of the quality since I've never seen them in person.  I know RGS items to be pretty sturdy and I don't have to worry about them falling apart quickly.  This is where I'm going to get nit picky (because it's my classroom and I can).  I'm not in love with the colors.  My curtains are pink, green, and blue.  I LOVE having bright colors in my room and for some reason...these just don't do that for me.  Yes, I love the color pink and I'm not big on orange.  That's all it is.  Guilty.  Moving on, judging by size (about 4" wide), I'd need a ton of these.  At least one set per shelf, so that's a minimum of 16 sets of these.  A set of 40 is $119, but I'd still need 6 more sets, leaving me with a grand total of about $205.  That's way over my budget!

Oriental Trading: Neon Classroom Storage Tubs $28.50
These are cute and colorful and dare I say....affordable?   The sizes on these are very similar to those on RGS and have a bigger color variety.  Plus, you get six bins for the price, which comes out to about $4.75/bin.  That is an entire dollar more/bin than the RGS bins previously mentioned.  I guess it comes down to if the added colors will make a different for you - for me it won't!  
Ikea: GLES $1.49
This little guy is a just about the right size, a little bigger than I'd prefer, but I could live with that.  At $1.49 it's super affordable and gives me an excuse to make another trip to Ikea (because we all need just one more excuse, right?).  Here is the big issue...it only comes in green.  Don't get me wrong, green is my favorite color, but I don't want my library totally greened out.  Sadly, these bins are not for me.

At first glance, I want to love these because they are almost everything I want my book bins to be.  Here is my first concern, where am I going to put all of my labels?  My second concern, after looking at customer feedback, most said they are flimsy and don't expect them to last.  That is what I am running away from!  Third, a set of 12 is in ONE COLOR of your choice.  I love color variety to limit myself to one or two colors.  Size wise, they're perfect though.  I haven't seen these in person, so I can't really say, but if anyone has used them, I'd love the feedback!

After all of these choices, you'd think that I would have made a decision, right?  I'm not exactly sure yet.  I think that I might do a combination of bins because some of the ones I have (for my chapter books) work great and the others are the ones needing the makeover.  Because I want to be able to label my bins, the narrower bins would be very ideal, but also very costly.  It would put me over my budget, but make my library more organized in the long run.