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Organize those Picture Books with Baskets

Books! Books! Books! They are the very reason that we, as librarians, exist! However, there are certainly days when it feels that those same books may in fact be winning. Mounds in the drop box. Piles on the return book cart. And questions. So. Many. Questions. Especially from your littlest ones! Where is ...? Can you show me ...? Do you have ...?

My kindergartners and first graders are ALWAYS looking for certain picture books {Dinosaurs, Dogs, Unicorns, Holidays} and certain series {Pinkalicious, Fancy Nancy, Scarred Squirrel, Pigeon}. And, just when I have those little buggers able to find their favorite books independently, they go and outgrow those easy picture books. And, another round of kinders and first graders come in with So. Many. Questions.

I have written in an earlier post why I have decided NOT to ditch Dewey and genrify my library! {Click HERE to read more about that!} However, when I my littlest ones have asked for what feels like the hundredth time that day where the dinosaur books are, I have seriously considered changing my stance and using genrification in my picture book section.

However, after some consideration, I still believe that genrification isn't for me!! Some librarians LOVE it and would NEVER go back! And no judgment there ... you go with your bad self. Honestly, I think that I can't see myself incorporating genrification in the library because I feel way too comfortable with the way that things are now, and my big kids know where to find books independently. Genrifying would simply throw everything in MY library into complete disarray. In saying that, I do use several library organization strategies in the chapter book and nonfiction sections {ones that go against Dewey} to make my traditional library easier for kids to find just what they are looking for! Read more about those strategies HERE.

But, it had become high time to do something about those picture books!! And those little kids. And their questions. Recently I visited a colleague's elementary school library, and she had just put ALL of her pictures books {YES. Every single one of them} into baskets. There wasn't a book loose on the shelf. That got be to thinking whether this basket idea could work for me and my youngest readers.
I really wasn't looking to put ALL of my picture books in baskets. However, maybe ... just maybe ... I could put the most requested books into some big colorful bins. Then those kiddos could find the books that they really, really wanted easily, AND most importantly ... independently! That's when my picture book bins were born. And honestly, I am totally in love with it and think that, if you don't genrify already, you should give it a go! Ready? Set! Go!


Book bins are everywhere!! You can walk into any Dollar Store and they have shelves full of them in a wide array of colors. Walk into any home retail store and discover aisles of bins. So where does a poor librarian even begin!

Start with a measuring tape! First, go to the shelf where you plan on putting your baskets and measure it up. How deep is it? You really don't want your book bins hanging out over the edge. Kids will be catching them constantly as they walk by. How high are they? You will want to go with the tallest bin that you can find! Second, measure your picture books. How wide are they?

Most picture books are at a least a dozen inches wide/tall, so you will have to go big! Your basket should be as wide as you can find. It took me hours of searching to find ones that would be perfect for my shelves. I purchased these 5.5 gallon Storex storage bins from Amazon. Their dimensions are 16.75 x 8.25 x 11.9 inches. They were a perfect fit for my picture book shelves!


Think about which subject, content area, series or author that your little guys ask most about.  I decided to start with twelve bins and twelve different subjects! These are the twelve subjects that I currently have a picture bin for in my picture book collection. However, my picture bin file has a wide variety of labels, and I believe that I can easily switch out the labels seasonally. For example, in the spring, my kids have a weird fascination with frogs and toads. So, I will switch the Bear bin label out and turn it into a Frog bin.

  • Bears
  • Cats
  • Construct
  • Dogs
  • Fancy
  • Farm
  • Funny
  • School
  • Sea
  • Sports
  • Transportation
  • Zoo

Once you know WHICH subjects that you are going to showcase, create some labels for the front of the bin. As long as your students can read and identify them, any label will do. The baskets that I previewed at my colleague's library had handwritten subjects with colorful stickers decorating the label. I just happen to have oodles and oodles of digital clip art on my computer, so I printed some bright bin labels that complemented my colorful bins. If you like the look of these bin labels, you can save yourself lots of time and purchase a set of 50 subjects and 27 author labels that can be resized to fit your own bins HERE at my TpT store.

I really thought that this would be totally easy to do! However, my bins held LOTS of books so I had to keep digging deep to find books for a few of the subjects. I pulled my favorite books and the kids' favorite books first. Then, I scoured our online catalog, using the subject, to pull a few more books that I knew the kiddos would love. Over time, as I am pulling books for display or the kids bring back their books, then I will notice a few more books that can be added to certain subject bins!

Now that I had twelve piles of books for my twelve picture books, I KNEW that I should somehow mark each of the books with their proper subject book bins. I was, admittedly, a bit stalled at this step. I am NOT a fan of extra stickers on the spines of books. So, for me, subject stickers were out of the question. I feel that I have all that I can do to keep the call number stickers on the book neatly. BUT, subject stickers on the spine could TOTALLY work for you!

I also thought about putting a subject sticker on the pocket envelope in the back of the book. Good news ... it would be out of the way and less likely to be ripped off! Bad news ... it is out of the way! Would I really open the book when I was putting them all away to check whether it had a subject?

My assistant and I opted to be subject sticker free! We created a resource/book list in our online catalog for each of the twelve subject areas.  When we discover a book that would fit well into one of our bins, we add that book to the resource/book list. So far, this system has been working for us!

I have opted to mix the picture book bins into the alphabetically shelved picture books. My books continue to be shelved by the authors last name, but now there are subject specific picture bins scattered in those same shelves. Aesthetically, I like the way that this looks!! However, you might like having all of the baskets one one shelf. Or maybe, you want to give bins for ALL of your picture books. You do you!!

The baskets are super popular among the kiddos!! I rarely have to point fans of Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious to the Fancy bin ... they know where to look now. The Funny bin is almost nearly empty, but now, if a student doesn't find "The Book Without Words" in the bin, they know that it is checked out. It is also fun to see fans of all things construction find a new book in their favorite bin!
Give picture book bins a try! You may just find that you have less questions and more time to enjoy your youngest readers!

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