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Independent Check Out

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?