Organizing Library Books at Home

My girls are old enough to start keeping track of their library books at home. Instead of chasing books all over the house and paying library fines, I’m coming up with a better system to organize library books at home. It has several parts, but they’re all easy steps.

How to keep track of Library Books at Home

Count library books.

My oldest daughter now reads one new chapter book every day or so. That’s great, but it means it’s time to start counting books at the library. I’m not sure what the right number is just yet, but we’ll start with taking out 10 items (books or movies) per kid each visit. If we check out the same number every time, in theory we’ll always be looking for the same number to return.

Get the perfect book tote for keeping library books organized at home.

At first, I was thinking I was going to DIY some sort of crate to keep at home, or maybe carve a special spot out of our book shelves in our living room. But a structured tote with a flat bottom is better for us, since it can easily travel to and from the library. I like this All-In-One tote from Thirty-One, with the size, the structure, the pocket, and the style we are looking for. I thought that we’d need one per kid, but we purchased one, and it’s worked out just fine. They love taking turns carrying it to the library.

tote to keep library books organized at home

Designate a home for a library book tote.

At home, the tote needs to be in the same spot all the time. The books themselves move around from our favorite family reading spots to their rooms to the car, which is what makes it so hard to keep track of library books at home. But they need a regular storage spot, otherwise they end up in the toy box or mixed in with our own library. The tote sits on the floor, easy for the girls to get into anytime. It’s just a bonus that’s it’s next to our TV. When they ask for screen time, we are reminded to ask if they’ve done their daily reading yet.

Finding the due date receipt at home.

The book tote has a pocket for the library due date receipt slip, which looks like a sales receipt. That sales receipt helps me know how many items we’re really looking for when it comes time to return.

Store the library receipt in the tote pocket  to track due dates

Unfortunately, the receipt isn’t an active, visible reminder. How about clipping a tag with the next due date to the front, so it’s easy to see? I’ve used my favorite card stock/binder clip/Sharpie combination here. Use what’s on hand.

clip the next due date onto the library tote

Schedule due dates on my calendar.

One reader mentioned that her library emails her a couple of days before books are due. Mine doesn’t do that, but it sure would be nice. Instead, it’s up to me, so I’m going to get in the habit of making an appointment to return books on my ipad calendar for 3 days before a batch of books is due. Some families might have a weekly routine (If it’s Wednesday, then it must be library day.), but we’re not that scheduled. We sometimes go several times in a week. But I can easily mark a return appointment while I’m standing in the check out line, or while the librarian is checking out our mountain of books. Another way to go would be to just snap a picture of the Due Date receipt and file it away in Evernote, adding a reminder on that note to ping me 3 days before the due date, and get rid of the paper altogether. (Great idea, but I haven’t actually started to do this yet.)

Make use of online renewals at the library.

Did you know that most libraries let you see what you’ve checked out via their online systems? If a book is already overdue, you can renew it online, which stops overdue fines. Check to see how your library does it.

Organize movies from the library.

We pay $1 to checkout each movie, and we only get to hold them for 1 week before $1/day overdue fees kick in, so having a place to keep the movies (in the library tote) and starting to make a reminder note for myself in my calendar should help keep those fines down, as well.

Organize all library books in the same place, no matter where they’re from.

My kids have at least two libraries they are responsible to, including the town library and their school library. You might have a church library or more than one school to track. We’re putting everything in one place, using the principle that it’s easier to look in one place for library books, than it is to look in multiple spots. (This works for adult files, as well, just in case you are wondering.)

Organizing Library Books at Home

We were already doing most of these steps to organize library books at home, but standardizing how many books we take out at a time and keeping them all in the same place will be a big improvement. It’s one more way to help my kids become independent, organized people while they are learning to love books.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, though. Even though I want to get the books back on time and in good shape, I really don’t worry too much about my public library. If I’m a day or two late, I’m happy to pay the fine. They get a little revenue, and I still pay a lot less than I would pay buying and storing the books long term.

Are you on top of library returns, or do you make peace with library fines?

Today’s Clutter-Free Living assignment: see if you need to apply any of these steps to help you keep track of your loaner library books.

New Year's resolutions, organizing goals, 31 day organizing plan


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jacquelyn

    I LOVE our library! They now send us an email three days before a book or DVD is due as a reminder. That has has saved us lots of money. Especially when I was teaching (and taking library books to my school), we easily had 50 books out on three different cards. Fortunately we do not pay a lot of fines.

    We have a place by the front door where finished books belong. We visit the library on average 3 times a week. We also take advantage of the online holds system.

    Libraries are an awesome way to cut down on clutter because with them, we don’t feel the need to own every book, only special ones.

  2. Becky

    We have a white bin next to her bookcase that is for library only books. It saves us from digging them out and wasting time. I need to put a reminder on my Google Calendar for when they are due though.

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