Easy Classroom Library Checkout System: Google Forms & Google Sheets
Classroom library organization can be a challenge. Maintaining a consistent and efficient library checkout system can be even trickier.
Over the years, I’ve tried several different checkout systems ranging from clipboards (a teacher’s best friend!) to specifically-designed library checkout apps —
But I always seem to come back to my trusty ol’ friends: Google Forms and Google Sheets.
So if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to manage the library checkout process in your classroom, read on or watch the video below to see how mine works.
How It Works
To officially “check out” a book from our library, students fill out a Google Form with their name, class period, and book title.
When students are done reading their book, they simply return it to a designated bin by my desk.
Then, every so often (usually every 2-4 weeks or whenever the bin gets too full), I open up the Form responses in Google Sheets. For each returned book in the bin, I place an X in an added column titled “Returned.”
Next, I use the filter tool in Google Sheets to quickly eliminate all rows containing an X so that only the blank rows remain. This allows me to see which books are still checked out, and I can follow up with students as needed.
Watch the video below for an overview of how to set up your Google Form and how to use the filter tool in Google Sheets.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do students access the Google Form?
I keep an iPad by my desk with a shortcut to the checkout form on the home screen, which makes it super easy for students to access during class. You could also set up a desktop shortcut on any other classroom device, or create and display a QR code for students to scan with their own devices.
If you want to learn more about using QR codes in your classroom, my friend Amanda over at Mud and Ink Teaching has a great article about how she uses QR codes to streamline her classroom management.
How does the return process work?
I’ve experimented with a few different methods here, but I’ve found the most success with keeping it simple and having a designated return bin near my desk. Once I grab the bin and check the books back in on my spreadsheet, I’ll have a student volunteer return the books back to the shelves. It’s a surprisingly quick process and easy to maintain.
At first, I had students return their books to my bookshelf and complete a separate “check in” Google Form, but there were a couple issues with this: First, students would often return their book to the shelf but forget to complete the second form, which resulted in more work and follow up on my end. Also, cross-referencing the data from two different forms took more time than I expected or wanted.
I also attempted to combine the check-in and check-out process on a single Google Form, but I didn’t love that method either. I might try it again now that I’m a little more savvy with using Google Sheets, but for now, everything is working pretty well.
What about managing multiple copies of the same book?
If you have multiple copies of the same book in your library, you may need to modify the return process a tiny bit. Here are a couple options:
Option 1: Write a number on the inside cover of each copy and include a field on your checkout form for students to record that number. If you have four copies of The Book Thief checked out but only three have made it back into the bin, giving each book a number will help you determine which students to credit for the returns.
Option 2: Have a clipboard next to the book return bin for students to indicate when they’ve returned a book, then use the student names/titles on the clipboard to mark the X’s on your spreadsheet. Yes, you could also create a separate Google Form for this purpose, but as I mentioned above, having two separate forms became too cumbersome for my liking. For some reason, I feel like a return clipboard would be easier to manage, but I haven’t personally tried it.
If you have any other ideas, please feel free to comment below.
If you want to learn more about using Google Sheets, I’ve got you covered. Head over to my YouTube channel to watch A Teacher’s Guide to Google Sheets, a free video series designed to help teachers of all skill levels use Google Sheets more comfortably and efficiently.