Library Activities for All Ages – Shelving Books

Library shelving has always been slightly magical to me. When I was in Year 9, I was given the honour of being a ‘library helper’ in my school library, and among other things, I was allowed to shelf books. Later on, when I was in university, I was bedazzled by the different shelving system. Then, as a teacher, I got a contract in a school library, with shelving again one of my favourite things. I suppose I just love the fact that every book can be catagorised and organised, using nothing but letters and numbers.

The other cool thing about shelving, is that there’s plenty of ways to learn about it (and from it) suitable for lots of different ages. Shelving can be magical anf fun for everyone!

Library Shelving Activities for All Ages: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Babies and Toddlers

As infants are learning about books when you read to them, they also learn about putting things away by watching you. Once they get a little bigger, they can even help you put things away, especially board books which tend to be kept in special lower shelves or baskets (and aren’t as strict on the alphabetical shelving)


Toddlers and Pre-Kindy

With slightly older children you can start the practice matching. Children can look at the letter on the book and see if they can find the matching letter on the shelves. (This works best in libraries which clearly label their shelves). They can also look at a small group of books and see if they can find any matching letters.



By now, a lot of children are getting comfortable with the alphabet, so can start to organise books into the right shelves (particularly the low shelves in the children’s section) and even organise books in alphabetical order (by the first letter).


Early Primary School

Around this time children can start to make the connection between the author’s name and where it goes (for fiction books). This is where you can start reversing the process and ask children look for books by certain authors.


Middle Primary School

Here non-fiction comes into play. Learn about the Dewey system and where certain books can be found. Practice the decimal system by ordering books in the right order. Learn where books on your favourite subjects can be found.


Upper Primary School/High School

This is a great age to learn about different shelving systems and why one might work better than another. Some might be interested in learning about different searching systems, from our computer based ones today to the old card catalogues of the past.



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