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7 Ways to Shelve Library Books Fast

shelving books fast
Accuracy is vital when returning books to the shelf in your school library. However, librarians only have so much time in the day between checking books in and out, hosting classes, creating book displays, and developing the next set of lesson plans. We’ve probably asked ourselves many a time if there is a faster way to return books to their shelf.

For new librarians, getting in the groove may be taking its time. Even seasoned librarians can benefit from a tip or two! If you want to speed up the shelving process check out these seven tips below:

How to Shelve Library Books Fast!

1| Organize shelving carts by labeling each side.

Organize your book shelving process by labeling sections on your book cart. Label each side with the genres and Dewey Decimals using masking tape or a Sharpie.

2| Presort, Presort, Presort!

Before you shelve, presort books on the cart. This is the key to a quick cycle of checking books in and returning them back to their shelf home. By presorting your books on the cart, you can easily grab a handful of books to shelve them in between classes. This tip may take a few extra minutes but will make a huge difference when shelving books quickly.  

3| Encourage students to check-out books from shelving cart.

Make it easier for kids to check out books from the cart. Better yet, encourage them to browse the cart. Some librarians will make signs like “Looks what’s back” or “Look what’s popular!” Make sure to pull the cart out from behind the circulation desk. Allowing students to check out from the cart means you won’t have to shelve as many books!

4| Make use of display spaces.

Use your shelves effectively and display your books! 99.9% of the time students check out the display books rather than searching the stacks. Place picture books and beginner chapter books on top of shelves and in the spaces in between. Make sure to place the books above or near their call number section to keep things easy!

Alexandria Slideshow
If you are looking for other ways to highlight books, you can use Alexandria's Researcher Slideshow which gives you a fun way to dynamically display select items in your catalog. Learn more here!

5| Group series books together.

Popular series books like Spirit Animals and 39 Clues have multiple authors. This can be tricky when students or teachers are looking for a particular series that is written by various authors. Some librarians will change the call number for multi-author series to reflect the first three letters of the series name, omitting the author’s name. This will keep the series together on the shelf, make it easier for patrons to find, and for you to shelve.

6| Save books for teachers.

Don’t shelve everything! Depending on your school, some teachers like to have a classroom library of books. Teachers who do this may come in every few weeks or so to change out their independent book library. In this case, take a few baskets and label them with the teacher’s name and grade level. As books are checked in, place them in the baskets that would work for that grade level. When the basket is full, you can swap the teachers books out. You can save time for yourself and the teacher by doing this!

7| Genrefy your fiction section.

A game changer for your school library, you can return books faster and easier by genrefying your fiction section. The initial genrefication does take time, but in the long run, will help you shelve books faster! Learn how to genrefy your library!

Getting in the groove takes time...

Getting in the groove of shelving library books fast takes time, and every media specialist has their individual tricks. The most important tip to keep in mind is that everything doesn't have to be perfect. As long as you can find, navigate, and locate books in your library you are on the right track.

Are You a Librarian?

Share what you do at your library to shelve books faster in the comments below!



  1. Christa Cosgriff says:

    Labeled picture books with with first 2 letters of author with colored alpa letters. Buy all colors and start with A and use all colors then start the next letter with first color. Quickly can spot where to file by 2 different colors. Do not need to alphabetize within the author. Popular authors like Berenstain, Seuss, Rey etc.received 3 letters to keep in groups.

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