Getting library books returned


The end of the school year is near, and that means one thing to every librarian: getting all the library books returned.  This is the toughest part of my job, and it’s the one I dread every year: letters, notices, phone calls, emails…the list is endless. I don’t know why, but it seems like my upper grades (3rd/4th/5th) have the worst time finding and returning their books. But one thing has made the task a bit easier, and it doesn’t cost any money or involve any food prizes: the annual Poster Raffle!

My first year as a school librarian is when I dreamed up this idea. I had leftover posters from the Scholastic book fair (generously donated each year), which I put them up all around the library. Each poster is numbered and has a corresponding numbered envelope.


The week before books are due, I explain the way the raffle works:

  • Only students in 3rd/4th/5th grades are eligible.
  • If ALL books are either returned / paid for by the return date, students earn entries to the raffle. NO entries are earned if ANY book is still checked out.
    • 3rd grade = 3 entries, 4th / 5th= 4 entries. This corresponds to the max number of items they are able to check out.

The week books are due back is raffle week. At the end of the lesson, I explain the above rules again. I include:

  • Students can put all entries into one poster OR spread them out.
  • There is a chance to win more than one poster. It has happened!
  • The raffle will be held Friday afternoon, with names of poster winners posted on the library door. If students forgot books/payment, they have until then if they want to get entries to the raffle.



I check the student accounts while they browse books on tables (not pictured). Students who have zero items out earn raffle slips (recycled paper…it’s hard to duplicate).  Name, teacher, and poster # gets written on each entry, which saves me from the “I didn’t enter for THAT poster!” speech.  While they debate over favorite posters and place their entries into envelopes, I have quiet chats with the handful of students who forgot items at home.

I have had a poster raffle for the last 10 years, and it is a student favorite. They LOVE having the chance to win, and I LOVE that it costs no money!  Better still, this activity helps to have over 95% of the library materials from my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders!

And in case you’re wondering: K, 1st, and 2nd students earn ALA bookmarks for returning all materials by the due date. The probability of winning a poster doesn’t work well for their developmental level. Much better to have the same item for each student.  🙂

5 thoughts on “Getting library books returned

  1. Andrea Eisenhour

    Love this idea. How many posters do you do? I have 3 classes per grade level and want to make certain I have enough (but not too many).

      1. ajdickens Post author

        Hi! Maybe try your local bookstore. They often get freebies from publishers and may be able/willing to pass them along. We get ours from Scholastic, when we hold the annual book fair. Good luck! –arika

    1. ajdickens Post author

      Hi! I’d try your local bookstore, as they have posters/book stands/character cutouts they use to promote materials in store (and have to do something with them afterward). We save our posters from our fall Scholastic book fair. Happy reading! –arika


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