Libraries in the Classroom

Schools are required to provide parents with a full list of the books that they make available to students. For the school libraries, this is nothing new. However, policy makers in Tennessee and Texas have recently made it clear that classroom libraries count as libraries too. 

This means that teachers are now being required to catalogue their classroom libraries, and then they must share it with parents. It requires extra time and effort to track reading materials in every classroom. Teachers were not having to do this before. So far, it has been problematic, even controversial. One solution for schools is having an inventory management system in place ideal for accommodating the new book tracking policies. 

Here are excerpts from the new policies: 


State of Tennessee’s Memorandum (August 11, 2022)

“What materials are included in library collections for purposes of implementing PC 744? 

The following definitions are included in PC 744: 

• “Library collection” means the materials made available to students by a school operated by an LEA or by a public charter school, but does not include materials made available to students as part of a course curriculum; and 

• “Materials” means books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, films, prints, documents, microfilm, discs, cassettes, videotapes, videogames, applications, and subscription content in any form. 

Please note that the definition of library collection is broad and is not limited to materials physically located in the school’s library. The definition applies to any materials, regardless of form, made available to students, including materials maintained in a teacher’s classroom.”


 EFB (Local) policy from the Texas Education Agency (DATE RECOMMENDED: April 4, 2022):

“For purposes of this policy, library materials, whether held in a formal school library or in a classroom, are defined as electronic, print, and nonprint resources, excluding textbooks, for independent use by students and faculty outside of the District’s core educational program. While instructional materials and library materials are both considered instructional resources, they are not the same, and the terms shall not be used interchangeably. 

Since school and classroom libraries are viewed as places for voluntary inquiry, library materials must be treated differently from instructional materials used in classroom instruction. This policy provides criteria for the selection, removal, and replacement of library materials, focused on maximizing transparency with parents and community members while meeting student needs to provide supplemental enrichment in their learning with appropriate materials. Through the provision of these library materials, the District shall recognize that parents hold an essential role in the education of their children and have the right to guide what their children read. 

In recognizing that parents hold an essential role in the education Parent Review of their children and have the right to guide what their children read, each library shall maintain a printed list of materials onsite and on the school library website that shows what has been selected as well as what is slated for acquisition. The Superintendent, or designated District-level administrator, will offer a “Parent Preview” at least ten days before books are to be placed on the shelves, once in the fall and once in the spring. Audio-visual materials are to be made available to parents for in-person review, upon request, on the same basis as printed materials are made available.”

What This Means

Separate from a school’s main library, teachers have classroom libraries. They are common. This is especially true for English Language Arts teachers, English Language Learners teachers, and literature teachers. The teacher’s class library could be something as simple as a table with some magazines on it or as extensive as hundreds of books on shelves lining the room. These bookshelves are in the classroom to give students access to books of interest. Good teachers know that the more books you can have around, the more likely it is to get kids reading thus improve their literacy. In a single school, there could be dozens of these mini-libraries among the classrooms. 

District leaders, along with students’ parents, don’t have total visibility on these reading materials. That’s what the policies are highlighting. Theoretically, there could be books available to kids that are inappropriate, in the eyes of their parents and legal guardian. The content of a book could be considered for minors to be vulgar, sexually explicit or prurient, deviant, inculcating, criminally-minded, religiously indoctrinating, or otherwise ill-conceived, ill-intended, or ill-fitted in some other way for minors, in their parents’ opinion.

Ideally, teachers should be screening books they place in their classroom. The change in policy brings another layer of accountability. Teachers are responsible for providing parents a way to see what books are in the classrooms. The new policies acknowledge that parents have a say in what their kids are offered as reading material. Just because the teacher thinks the books are age appropriate doesn’t mean the parents agree. Before the new policy, classroom libraries were not monitored as well as were the main school libraries. 

Some teachers have complained about having to take inventory of their classroom books. Teachers who provide classroom libraries, which are often funded out of their own pocket, are generally excited about it and doing a good thing. They believe in the power, joy, and necessity of literacy. And they are correct about that. However, their main complaint is that cataloging books can be a significant time burden, which is already in short supply for our teachers. When a teacher spends years adding to their bookshelves, they end up with hundreds if not thousands of books. Cataloging that many books takes days if not weeks. Managing the inventory throughout the year could be even more challenging. Teachers have their own personal systems, but now they have to be more precise and better at reporting on it. 

A Solution

Schools are going to need inventory software. Flowtrac has exactly what schools need to manage the classroom libraries. 

With our software, they would be able to scan in and out books, connect all classroom locations into a network of locations that administrators would have control over, and use our inventory reports to share and update parents. The system tracks countless details about each item, and this would be perfect for tracking books. At everyone’s finger tips, they’d be able to see not just a booklist, but also the barcode, cost, summary of the book, its ratings, page length, and more. 

Additionally, it would give teachers a way to check in and out books to students quickly, which would also help teachers with the ongoing issue of their personal sets going missing. Moreover, a teacher would be able to give a report to parents of what books their child read, how long it took them to read it, and the condition of the book when the child returned it. This kind of data is helpful in tracking student literacy. 

Teachers could do it all from the standard school issued technology devices. They could even use their personal smartphones. 

More states might one day introduce similar policies. Even if they don’t, using some kind of an inventory management system to track all the materials across classrooms, schools, and districts is not a bad idea.