If you are a school librarian, you know how hectic things can be when you do not have a library clerk to help you. School librarians wear multiple hats, and it's pretty much impossible to help students find books when you are busy maintaining order and checking out books for kids at the same time. A good way to help students help themselves is to teach them to find their own books in the library. Doing this provides them with independence and the ability to find their way around the stacks.

Teach students the difference between fiction and nonfiction books. Fiction is a made-up story whereas nonfiction is a book containing true information. Give a tour to show them the various sections of the library. Make sure they know the picture books or easy books are shelved in a different area from the chapter books.

Show students where they can find the call number of a book. Tell them that the call number is a label always located on the books spine. It tells us where the book "lives" on the library shelves.

Present a lesson on the Dewey Decimal System. Try to make it as entertaining as possible. Pass out cheat sheets detailing the major classifications of the Dewey Decimal System. Play a game where kids compete to determine what general call number is the location for a specific topic. The team with the most points wins a bookmark or a pencil.

Allow students to practice putting a pile of fiction or nonfiction books in the correct order. Divide class into teams. Time each team to see how fast they can put their pile of books in the correct order.

Plan a scavenger hunt. Break students into groups of four or five. Ask students to find books with a specific call number and bring them to you for a small prize.

Teach kids how to use the library catalog. Whether your school library uses an automated system or the old-fashioned card catalog, your students need to learn how to use it to locate books in the library.


Teaching the Dewey Decimal system can be a dry subject if you're not careful. Strive to turn your lessons into hands-on, interactive games. Don't rely on worksheets.


Throughout the year, you will need to review how students find books in the library. Don't expect your students to catch on to the concept the first day.

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