Independent Check Out

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A few years ago when I started using library centers, I also revamped my check out system. I used to check out books myself but I moved toward letting kids check their own books out. I flipped around my circulation computer so it faced out toward the library and taught the kids how to scan their cards and their books. With a little practice, independent check out took off!

This year I set up a more official check out station since I have a real circ desk and the space:

I’ve now introduced independent checkout in 3 different schools with 3 very different populations. It’s worked great in each school. When students are checking out their own books, I am able to be help more students choose books, participate in a center activity, or read with a student or small group. There isn’t a delay in check out when I am helping a student find something – the line just keeps moving along. When my older students come down randomly during the day to get a new book, they are able to check themselves out even if I’m teaching.

I have an I Can… sign next to the check out station but the first few weeks of independent check out, I stand near the checkout station as kids check out to give verbal reminders of the procedure:
-scan your library card
-check the screen to make sure it says your name
-scan your book with the library barcode


It doesn’t take long for kids to get the routine and be fully independent. I started with 2nd-5th grades from the first day of school and they quickly became experts. In mid-December, after the 1st graders and Kindergarteners had our library routines down, I also introduced them to library cards and self check out. I would have likely done it earlier but I was so busy getting ready for AASL, I didn’t have their library cards together until then.

Here is a kindergartener checking out their books:

In kindergarten and 1st grade, we are still relatively new to self check out so I always supervise myself or ask a parent volunteer to monitor the check out station. In the picture above, you can see the mobile check out station I use when I don’t have a parent volunteer to help with check out in K/1 classes. I can better supervise check out, book selection, and centers at the same time when I’m right in the midst of the action rather than across the room at the circ desk. I found having check out at a table also helps out because the little kids can better see the line from the scanner going across the barcodes because the table is lower than our circ desk check out station.

Of course independent check out isn’t 100% perfect. Every once in a while, someone forgets to scan their card before they scan their book and checks out the books to another kid. Thankfully, my students are all amazing at getting my attention if any issues like this arise. I teach them it’s not a big deal and easy to fix.

However, the positives that come out of independent check out, like my ability to help more kids find books without other kids waiting in line for me to come back to the check out station and students feeling independent in the library way outweigh the few blips.

How do you check out books in your library?

20 Responses to “Independent Check Out”

  1. Kathy Judson

    I have parent volunteers checkout the students so I can help out the students. The kids have asked me to use the scanner many times so I am sure they
    Would love it. We may give it a try…

  2. Lindy

    Hello, Mrs. Lodge!
    Thank you for sharing this! I’m a brand new media specialist (started at the end of November!) and I’ve been wanting to establish a self-check out area and routine for our school. A couple questions:
    How do you keep your students’ cards organized, and where are they stored? I was thinking of hole punching them, hanging them on a ring with the rest of their class, and hanging the rings on command hooks at the front of the circ desk. I figure older kids would have no problem shuffling through to find their card, but I worry about the little ones.

    Also, If the books they’re returning aren’t already checked in, my computer will beep at them and not let them check out the new books. Do you get around this by increasing the number of books they’re allowed to check out in the system?
    Again, thank you for shaing, and I love your site :)

    • mrslodge

      I keep the cards on my desk. When a class comes in for library class, I put their cards in a basket (1-5) and they’re responsible for getting them when they are ready to check out. I pass out kindergarten cards because we only started a little while ago and it helps me with their names. K-1 don’t come to the library alone, 2nd and 3rd rarely, and 4 and 5 can usually handle it without help. I have seen a few colleagues who use a ring system on their circ desk but I haven’t tried it myself…sounds like a great idea!

      My max checkout is 10 in the catalog but even then, I think it says “max checkouts reached, do you want to continue?” or something along those lines so you can click yes and still checkout. If you have Destiny, this is under Back Office > Library Policies when you’re logged in as an admin.

      Good luck :)

  3. Jody Turner

    I have always had the children memorize their PIN and they use a separate keypad to punch in their #. It is easy for them to remember because they use it at lunch and the number is their password in most of the computer programs that our school uses.

  4. Julie Salinas

    I love your website. I’m just starting out in this field (currently on a long-term sub assignment) and over the last few weeks, I have actually turned my screen around and let the kids see what I see when they return and check out their books. I only have one computer and one scanner but after seeing your pictures and reading how the kids have mastered and you have the ability to interact and help the students, I am bound and determined to make Independent Check Out work in my school library.

  5. Gina

    Hi, love this post! I want to do it as well! Questions: do you have the kids stamp a return date inside the books?

    • mrslodge

      No, I don’t. At our school, they have library once per week at the same time, so they always bring their books back on library day. You could definitely do that or day of the week bookmarks if you don’t have a fixed schedule.

  6. nancy

    What’s your poverty level there? I have concerns about our high poverty kids with an expensive scanner :(

    • mrslodge

      I don’t worry that kids will take my scanner. While they are expensive, I don’t think it would occur to any of my students to take it. I’m also always in the room. My scanner is in a holder and set to automatically scan so they don’t even physically touch it during check out.

  7. Alison shoaf

    To help keep books from getting checked out under the wrong student, I printed a Reset barcode in Destiny and have it on a laminated card that is tied to the scanner. My students are “trained” to scan their library card first, book, and then the reset. It’s really cut down on mishaps! My kinders ware usually the ones to forget to reset, but normally an older student will reset for them if they’re next in line. :)

  8. Darcy10

    We also have the students check in their own books when they arrive for their library period, they like it and they know for sure they’ve returned their book. The program is set to stop their borrowing privileges if they have more than 1book for Kindergarten, 2 for Grades 1-2 or 4 for upper grades. The computer beeps and I can hear it or their teacher and we go help fix the problem. I change the beeps, some are staff voices, witch for halloween, HO HO for Christmas or even just a the word STOP to alert us, very fun!!

  9. Sarah Knowlton

    I do not have a security system in my library to catch anyone who forgets to check out. Do you think this would still work or are there any suggestions you could give?

    • mrslodge

      I don’t have any security system either. I find if someone doesn’t check a book out, it’s because they forgot, no because they’re trying to steal the book. I give a reminder a few minutes before we line up to check out and if I have a repeat forgetter, I check in with them specifically when we get ready for line up.

  10. Frankie Otis

    How do you have them return books? Do they use the same station?

    • mrslodge

      Classroom teachers typically send the books down to the library first thing in the morning. They have “librarian” as a classroom job and that student brings down a basket or crate of books and put the books in the book drop. This works for me because a volunteer or I can check in books before a class comes to the library. When I have a class first thing in the morning, they put their books in our book drop as they walk in. If a volunteer is helping out, they check in the books. Otherwise, I do it after. I have a pretty high max checkout set in my catalog so if someone returned 4 books to the book drop but they weren’t checked in, the student can still check out 4 more. It will look like they have 8 books checked out but they really only have 4. I’m pretty lax on my check out rules so it works fine for me but I know it will be too loosey-goosey for some people!

  11. Colleen

    Love your website. You have such amazing information. I was planning on teaching the kids how to self check out. I was wondering if there was a particular brand/type scanner that you would recommend? Thanks so much

    • mrslodge

      I’ve nevery been able to buy a scanner, just had to use what I’ve got so I don’t have any recommendations. Sorry, I wish I could be of more help!

  12. Pepper Tan

    Hi! Do you have the kids check out DVDs on their own? Or have you limited their self-checkout privileges to only books? Thanks :)

    • mrslodge

      We didn’t have DVDs available for students so it didn’t come up. I suppose it would depend if anything special needed to happen in order to check out the DVD. How cool that you have that as an option for students!

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