5 Tips to Get Library Books Back at the End of the Year (with a Freebie!)

It's the end of the school year and you are frantically trying to get all of your library books back on the shelves.  I've got 5 tips on how to get those books back quickly without losing your sanity (which is hanging by a thread at this point, right?) ;-)

1.  Change "Overdue" status to "Lost" 

I do this the day after all library books are due back.  Our district uses Follett Destiny as our library management system and as soon as the Ceiling Due Date as passed, all books are marked to "Lost".  This generates a bill complete with how much students owe to replace the books.  It never ceases to amaze me how fast students bring their library books back after they receive a bill of $60 to pay for their three hardcover library books!

2.  Email the Parents

Parent emails are automatically synced to Follett Destiny in our district through our central administration office.  I simply go to the "Back Office" in Follett and set it up to send emails to students with lost/overdue books.  I actually do this at the end of every marking period and it's super effective.  Some parents do not even look at the 10 printed overdue notices that are in their child's backpack, but an email sure catches their eye!  Depending on your district and what management system you use, directions on how to do this would vary.

3.  School-Wide Announcements

Have some fun with this!  It can be as simple as announcing daily how many overdue books have still not been returned.  Or you can jazz it up with some music:

First thing in the morning, announce to students to please bring all overdue books to the library and play this music.  You can all rock out and get your library books returned at the same time! #WinWin
If you do video announcements, have some students create a skit.  Or you can show some song parodies like these:

The possibilities are endless!

4.  Offer Incentives (Prizes)
Give a special summer bookmark when they have returned all of their library books.  I like these scratch and sniff bookmarks from Demco:

Another option would be to enter students who have returned all of their library books into a drawing to win a book or other special prize.  

5.  Have a Class Competition
Give a special prize for the first class in the entire school to have all of their library books returned.  Extra recess, extra maker space time, extra tablet time, etc.  are all great incentives that are free.  I have created special signs that teachers and students can proudly display on their classroom doors. Some are awards to give to the first class to return their books and their are awards you can give to the first grade-level class to return their books.  You can download them for FREE here:

There are 10 different signs (in color and bw) that you can print and give to classrooms.  
I hope these tips will help you get those library books back in no time!  What great ideas do you have to get books back at the end of the year?  I'd love to hear them!


  1. I create a bar graph outside the Library, made of colored index cards, with the TEACHER's names on it, for classes that have returned all the books. It is amazing to hear the teachers tell their students, "I want my name on that chart!" Ha, ha.

  2. Ann, I LOVE that idea! I can imagine the competition heating up among the teachers... Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. I have each teacher's name posted in the hall with the number of books still to return posted under each of the names. I laminated them and use a Vis-a-Vis marker to update every couple of days. It gets very competitive! The first class gets a popsicle party and a book for their classroom library.

    1. Another awesome idea! I'm assuming you can reuse the laminated sheets each year? Great time-saver. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Much the same, here. For the end of first term, I have all the divisions competing against each other to reach the finish line. It was a car race theme. No classes won that one, sadly. At the end of second term, I did a basketball theme. The divisions competed against each other. 3 classes made it through the basket and won their teacher 30 min of free time for herself, while the kids got 30 minutes of free time in the library with tech or activities. Also, the three winning classes got to 'up' their take out limit for third term. In third term, I pit the divisions against each other again, but I also pit teachers against students with a running total going for all students vs. all teachers. The kids love it because their number moves down so mush faster than the teachers because the teachers are still using their books to teach! I love the songs you posted, and the idea of marking them as lost with a bill right away.


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