Behind the Shelves: School Library Planning

Do librarians use lesson plans?

What kind of planner do you use?

How do you plan for so many different classes every week in the library – and how do you keep it all straight?

I’ve gotten a few questions recently about how I plan, so I wanted to share my current system. Planning as a specialist is a unique kind of complicated, and I’ve spent my whole career looking for a system that works – so I’m happy to share what I’m using now, and hope that it might help you, too!

IMG_0105As the only librarian in a K-8 school, I work with approximately 500 students and teach 9 different grades every week. Library curriculum is different for every teacher, but I personally don’t enjoy teaching the exact same lesson to multiple grade levels at once (learn more about how I plan based on an essential question for each grade level here), and I almost never teach the same lesson two years in a row. I’m on a fixed schedule with all nine grade levels and see approximately 30 different groups per week just for designated library class time, so being disorganized or unprepared is not an option! I know that teacher planners are often customizable and beautiful, but I’ve never found a planner system that works for me, so this year I decided to try making my own, inspired by and using the awesome template and ideas I found on this post by Arika Dickens (LibrarianArika on Twitter).

This little number might not look like much, but and it helps to keep me sane! If you take a peek inside my planning binder, you’ll find:

A tab with my master schedule

My schedule is different every single day, the two divisions I work with are on different schedules, and our school is on a 6-day rotation that doesn’t match up with the days of the week… so it normally takes me until about April to memorize my schedule! I color code my master schedule and keep a copy with me at all times for my own sanity.  The spreadsheet is broken into 15-minute increments, and here’s how it’s organized: Lower school class periods are green, middle school class periods are gray, student lead/project based special classes are purple, duties are pink, lunches and book clubs are gray, community meetings are light blue, and parent/family times in the library are dark blue. I’m often double booked, so there’s a lot of asterisks involved! I also input these fixed class periods into my Google calendar at the beginning of each trimester, so I can share my schedule with anyone that needs it. And so I get a reminder 10 minutes before each class starts. That has definitely saved me before 🙂

A separate section for each grade, K-6

IMG_01047th and 8th grades don’t currently require curriculum plans, since their library time is exclusively and purposefully set aside for pleasure reading. Within each grade’s section is a notes page, where I plan with each grade level team at the beginning of the year about their main RLA, social emotional, and classroom goals, and how I can best support them. Then there is a calendar spanning the entire school year, which is broken down into weeks. These pages are where I create a rough plan using Post-It notes. I love Post-It’s because they’re easy to write, shift, remake, or toss when things change (thank you for the awesome idea, Arika!).

For a closer look at the photo and others like it, check the slideshow below. The only major problem that I’ve run into so far is that our school runs on a 6-day rotation, so our rotations don’t line up with the weekly calendar; next year, I’ll create my own schedule based on rotations instead of weeks.

A miscellaneous tab

This tab houses info about any upcoming projects, events, initiatives, or community stuff that I need to have with me. For example, our middle school is currently in the middle of an exciting redesign, so I keep my notes in there so I have them on the fly. Class lists, no photo lists, and other important documents live in there too.

A rotation planning page

IMG_0103This page is critical: it’s where I flesh out the details for each grade level’s plan for that week. A post-it on the kindergarten-specific calendar may say “Robot unit – week 1, intro”, to remind me of the overall plan, but that won’t get me anywhere when 16 wiggling bodies arrive at my door! When I transfer my plan from the Post-It to the rotation planning page, I add the details: which greeting we’ll use, the warm up game or share, the read-aloud for the week, the activity that goes along with it, and any other details I need to know. This is my easy no-flip reference for when I’m in the trenches. I often have to transition from one grade level to the next with zero prep time, so I need to have something ready to go to help me change gears instantly.


Add in a happy rainbow pencil pouch with writing utensils, Post-Its, and a few stickers, and that’s it! So far, this system is working like a dream for me. It might not be as pretty as past planners, but it keeps me organized and accountable, and makes planning feel simple and achievable. I love the balance of planning ahead and going with the flow: the prepared planning makes me feel calm and in control, but the stickies mean I can easily shift things to go with the flow and give students the space and time they need. It also helps me to make space for prep time for big events, and be aware and prepared for what’s around the corner.

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Are you a planner, or do you prefer to make it up as you go? What do you use to plan?


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