First impressions

Financial control

Inventory control

Catalogue Services






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Pyramid display

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Double decker.

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Single sided trolley.

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Two sided trolley.

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Book spinner display.

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Advice provided on this page is for general use only. Specifics will vary depending on locality, governing body, professional and library association(s), and circumstances. On average, people from over 70 countries visit our web site each month. We are making every effort to meet everybody's needs and differing uses of terminology. Having said that, it should also be appreciated that the library community is global and we share a common cause. The purpose of this page is to provide a resource for teachers who are new to the library environment. This may be particularly relevant to a primary school teacher who has recently been handed the running of the school's library. Hopefully, with the contributions we receive from experienced librarians and teachers, we can deliver some practical advice. If you are reading this page, and can help with additional content, please email me at Gordon Pikes. Alternatively, twitter me by clicking on the Twitter bird link below:


Librarians and teacher/librarian links are provided under the Communications section at the bottom of this page. Librarians linked at the bottom of this page do not endorse our product(s) and we (Rightforu Pty Ltd) neither provide or receive any form of remuneration from any external links that appear on this page. As such, this page is for the benefit of others and is non-commercial. It does not remain static. Your comments and opinions are all taken into account.


A library is like an aeroplane. Its one thing to travel in it as a passenger, but quite another to be the pilot. When taking on a library, walk in as if you have never walked into one before. This is your library. It is likely to be very different from the public, college or university libraries that you are used to. Take a good look at the floor surface, the shelving, desks, furniture, computer equipment and general layout. Your library may contain much more than just books. You may also find cd's, periodicals, magazines and dvd's.

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You may find one or more computers, scanning equipment and barcode labelling stationery. Have a look at the books and note the spine labels. There may also be barcode labels on the back cover, or possibly on the inside covers. Spine labels are probably Dewey Decimal format (there are other formats as well). The barcode on the back may be covered with clear tape to protect it from wear. The spine label may be tape covered for the same reason. A taped barcode label on the back cover is usually the school's serial number and is used for checking titles in and out. Printed priced barcodes on exterior covers may be identification labels put on by the supplier and should be removed to avoid confusion. An important printed barcode (generally on the rear cover) is the publisher's barcode. The letters "ISBN" followed by a number above or below the barcode are important. Don't ever cover this with a serial number barcode. The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is used for calling up catalog(ue) information on the title from your catalog(ue) supplier. The spine label is used for finding the title on the shelves and putting it back into its rightful place on return. Computer scanners are basically an extension of a computer keyboard and save having to type in the barcode serial numbers. The computer system will record ins and outs, maintain an inventory of the library and may linked to one or more catalog(ue) providers.


Your school/institution has a lot of precious funds tied up in its library. Take your local book store, for example, and imagine the worth of all its stock. A school library is no different. The books, cd's, dvd's, computers, furniture and fittings all have value, regardless of whether they are donated or purchased. These assets have a useful life in both accounting and practical terms; their value diminishes over time. This is termed "depreciation" and is a major expense for a library. Commonly, books are depreciated over 10 years. For example, a $150 book is expensed out at $15 per annum. Computers are generally depreciated out at a much higher rate, say over 2 to 3 years (50% to 33% per annum). See your registrar for applicable depreciation rates. There are a number of other costs to consider, including stationery, labels, subscriptions (possibly to Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress), catalog (catalogue) providers, and computer system maintenance fees. Depending on how a school manages its departments, there may also be a requirement to account for utilities, occupancy and labour costs. In addition, duties may include preparation of the capital and/or expenditure budgets for the library. Whilst not all these issues may be your responsibility, it's important to recognize that these are all very real financial factors that do impact on a library.


The value of titles, even for a small library, can be substantial. When purchasing titles, it is necessary to add them to the libary's inventory. In terms of inventory control, each title's serial number represents a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU). Each active SKU has a Quantity on Hand (QOH) of either 1 or 0. SKU and QOH are commonly used abbreviations when dealing with inventory control. "Dead stock" are titles that are not been referred to or lent out. Dead stock (titles not of interest to your borrowers) are just using up shelf space and, if shelf space is at a premium, they need to be identified and disposed of. This disposal process is also referred to as weeding, or culling. Shrinkage is the term used to describe the loss and theft of titles. At least once per annum, a library should be stocktaked (inventoried) with the QOH's of the library's inventory, as determined by the library's computer system, compared to the physical count of titles. The QOH reported/counted also needs to be multiplied by the original costs of the titles so that a monetary valuation difference can be determined. Generally speaking, a variance of 5% or greater could result in an audit qualification if the school is subject to external audit. See your registrar or school accountant for clarification. Regardless of the regulations that might apply, having a computer system saying one thing and the reality being different is not an acceptable or workable situation to be in. If there is a problem, start by verifying the top 20% (in value) of library titles. This is the 80:20 rule. Generally, 80% of the problem lies with 20% of the inventory. Accurate QOH results can be achieved by understanding and maintaining the following SKU movements:

ACQUISTION - On receipt of an invoice for the title, serial number it, record the titles's value and ensure its QOH is updated to 1. The computer library system may do this for you. After this movement, the QOH should be 1.

LENDING OUT - Ensure that the title is scanned when lending the title out and the borrower recorded. After this movement, the QOH should be 0.

RETURNING - Ensure that the title is scanned back in on return and the borrower's record reflect that he/she has returned the title. After this movement, the QOH should be 1.

STOCKTAKE - Begin by ensuring all titles are in their correct locations. Then, count them individualy. Each title/serial number counted should have a QOH of 1. Titles not in the library should reflect a QOH of 0. Compare the count QOH to the library computer system's QOH (the computer's QOH should have taken into account the fact that the title may have been lent out). If the results don't match then it is necessary to investigate. If the count QOH is 0 and the computer indicates 1 on hand for that serial number, then the title may not have been scanned out, or it may have been stolen, or weeded out without its disposal having been recorded. If the count QOH is 1 yet the computer indicated a QOH of 0, then the title/serial number may not have been scanned back in.

A tip (if you don't have a laptop, or a radio frequency (RF) scanner for counting), consider mounting your pc on a trolley and wheeling it round the library. To avoid dragging leads, a battery backup unit can be used to provide power. Commonly, laptops with a scanner plugged into them are also used and are a very practical solution. If you do have RF and experience weak signal strength, there are different frequencies and booster antennas available.

ADJUSTMENTS - If it is discovered that the title/serial number has not been scanned out or in, and if satisfied that reason is correct, there may be a necessity to correct the QOH value with an Adjustment. There may also be a necessity to do an Adjustment to account for the theft of title/serial number. Your registrar or school accountant will need access to this information to determine the monetary loss after having taken accumulated depreciation into account. An Adjustment can increase or decrease the QOH.

DISPOSAL - Where the title/serial number is weeded out or sold, and the SKU is removed from the library, then the SKU is deemed as having been disposed of. If the SKU is sold, it is important that the registrar or school's accountant is advised of the amount received and date of sale. This information is necessary to determine the profit/(loss) on disposal of asset(title/serial number). After this movement, the QOH should be 0.

Titles placed in incorrect locations are a common cause of count errors. Borrowers with a history of returning titles late are a first point of call when investigating missing titles. If they are leaving your school, make sure that they have returned titles before they leave. If your school has a dismissal or exit procedure, we suggest this point be added in.


To save having to key in all the information relating to the titles in the library, you can subscribe to a catalog(ue) provider. In Australia and New Zealand, the mostly commonly used catalog(ue) provider is SCIS. Unfortunately, "catalogue" is spelt differently depending on location. In the United States it is spelt "catalog", whilst elsewhere it is spelt "catalogue". We (Rightforu Pty Ltd) handle catalog(ue) data using a format developed and controlled by the American Library Association's MARBI committee in conjunction with the Library of Congress. This data handling format is known as MARC21, standing for MAchine Readable Catalog. Catalog(ue) data is also offered in other formats, such as ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) and XML (Extensible Markup Language).

MARC21, as a record structure, came into being on the implementation of International Standard ISO 2709 and its equivalent, the American National Standard for Information Interchange (ANSI/NISO Z39.2). The original MARC came out in the 1960's. MARC21 comes in Bibliographic, Authority, Holdings, Community and Classification files. To sum up, this is a tried and proven format suitable for the accurate and rapid transfer and interpretation of library related data. Z39.5 is the standard/format used for SQL (Statement Query Language) communication between databases dealing with library data. All these standards allow for libraries to communicate with numerous catalog(ue) providers and to share information with each other.

For most schools, two types of record formats are important. Bibliographic records provide key information on the titles held, especially the call number (the information for the spine labels). Bibliographic records save all the hard work of entering the information and working out call numbers. We aslo recommend downloading the Authority Files. Authority Files come in either a concise or full version. Authority Files are critical to finding information that exists in the library. Only using Bibliographic information will significantly limit searches. Indeed, you or your borrowers will probably miss out on finding titles and information that are actually to hand, without Authority File information.

Your subscription to your catalog(ue) provider is likely to include a support service. They will be able to assist you with selection of the most appropriate files to download for the library, and how to go about it.

READING LEVELS FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL STUDENTS, also termed lexiles, are often printed on the external covers of books. They may also be found (if provided) in Tag 521 of Bibliographic files.


The spine label is termed a "call number". Catalog(ue) suppliers usually include call numbers as part of the Bibliograpic data that they provide. If they do provide call numbers, you should determine which classification system they are providing. The three most commonly used classification systems (resulting in the spine labels, and possibly aisle signage) are Abridged Dewey Decimal, Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress. These are proprietry systems.

Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) was developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876. This just goes to prove that pure genious is long lived. DDC has ten main numerical classes that then subdivide ad infinitu. Australian schools, mostly use Abridged Dewey Decimal (this is the SCIS default format for their Bibliographic files). Similarly, DDC is the predominant classifaction used by schools in the United States. We encourage any schools in India updating a school library, to seriously consider Dewey Decimal, if they are not already using it. Please check with your governing body, as you may have no choice in the matter. You will find Dewey Decimal call numbers in Tag 082 of any Marc21 compliant library software system. Abridged Dewey Decimal call numbers similarly appear at Tag 082.

The Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system was originally developed in 1897 by Herbert Putnam and others, specifically for the Library of Congress. LCC uses alphabetic characters for its main classes and is enumerative in nature. LLC is commonly seen in academic and public libraries. LCC call numbers can be found at Tag 010.


LABELS - On your average book you are likely to find three labels. On the spine will be a label detailing the classification of the book and providing its position on the shelf (the call number). On the rear cover there is generally a publisher's barcode, the ISBN Number. The serial number allocated by your school's library will be either on the back cover or on an inside cover. Similar conventions apply to other physical titles held in the library, such as DVD's. Our system, as do many others, permit you to print off your own serial barcode labels, as well as spine labels. Many libraries buy in sheets of pre-printed serial numbers complete with clear, rounded edged protection covers. There are stationery suppliers that supply colo(u)r coded spine labels for easier identification and a more user friendly presentation. When ordering label stationery, it is important to check that the label dimensions suit your system. There is a fourth label that is extremel useful, being a genre symbolic label. For example, a label displaying Sherlock Holmes and a magnifying glass might signify the crime genre. These genre labels are extremely useful for both staff and patrons. They make putting books away considerably easier.

BARCODES - The serial number barcode is important for tracking the status and whereabouts of the title. The ISBN barcode is used for ordering Bibliographic information from your catalog(ue) supplier or another resource. It is important that barcodes are not scratched as scanners experience difficulty reading damaged barcode lines. Equally, when printing off barcodes, always use a laser, or thermal printer. Inkjet printers don't work well with barcodes as the ink tends to spread outwards, distorting the barcode lines and causing read errors. If experiencing scanning issues, contact your computer technician as scanners have to be configured to read various types of barcodes. They are normally supplied with quite a good selection of standard formats but if you do experience a problem, bear this in mind. It is also worth ensuring that, if using a dedicated barcode printer, it is not set to automatically calculate/print the check digital of a barcode (being the last number of the barcode). This check digit is the result of an algorithm. Your printer will inveriably calculate it correctly, but, for any number of reasons, this may not be practical.

SIGNAGE - Colo(u)r coded aisle end signs can be purchased from library stationery suppliers. This permits patrons to navigate around the library with minimal assistance. These signs must match up with the classification system that has been adopted. Don't forget to have safety signs, particularly for trip hazards and/or slippery floor surfaces. Paper is flammable, and video tapes highly flammable. Ensure that there are adequate and appropriate fire extinguishers, with compliant signage, emergency exit signs, evacuation procedure signage and muster area clearly posted. Ensure that you are conversant with your school's fire and safety policies and procedures, and with your local regulations with regard to these matters. Safety starts with you.


Ensure floor surfaces are free of trip hazards, including electrical leads, linoleum that has lifted and worn carpet. In terms of dressing up floor surfaces, consider colo(u)rful mats, with alphabetic characters on them, and similar themes. Shelving is a major component of any library. Adjustable shelving heights are useful for dealing with the varying heights of books. Having wheels under your shelving units permits for far easier movement of these often heavy units, particularly if you are ever faced with a relay. Shelf ends can be used for signage. Seating should match both your needs and the patrons's needs. Little people need safe and scaled down furniture. Books are heavy, your back is delicate. Use trolleys to move books, not cardboard boxes. Decorate and display interesting books and items to evoke students imagination and inspire them to investigate the resources to be found in your library. The slide show at the top of this page, and examples of library equipment on the side panel, should provide you with some ideas and inspiration. Check with your registrar before purchasing or ordering any library furniture as it may be subject to meeting strict manufacturing guidelines, to ensure both quality and safety.


Librarians and teachers involved with running libraries are incredibly helpful to one another. It is a fantastic community, filled with witty and knowledgeable people. Visit neighbouring libraries, be they academic, public or schools and meet the librarians. There are also a lot of forums for exchanging ideas.

Librarians or teacher/librarians that can offer help to others, are linked below (either by email, blog, twitter, web, wikipedia, skype or other):