Friday, May 13, 2016

How to Create a Floating Book Collection

When I was working on my Masters in Library Science, I had the opportunity to intern at a public library and volunteer at a local high school media center. It was through this combination that we realized there was a need for pleasure reading at the high school, but no budget to fulfill it. Since the public library had a lot of fiction books, there was a great opportunity for a collaboration.

YAY, Collaboration!

Getting both libraries together, we developed an idea of having a floating fiction collection where the public library would lend books to be housed at the school for a few months. Utilizing Google Forms, we came up with a simple process that worked for everyone, allowing us to keep track of books and who had checked them out. It worked really well!

Since then, I've created many floating book collections and learned much. Here's how we did it:

Why a Floating Collection?

1. School libraries could have a minimal fiction budget. When I visited all the schools at my previous job, I learned that some libraries had a great budget, but others had a small budget (if any at all) and were only allowed to buy books that supported the curriculum.

2. Schools may also have a slow processing time. Another school I collaborated with said it took four months for their book order to be approved by the administration. So, even if they can buy their own books, they may not be able to put it in the hands of teens.

3. Public libraries do have a budget, especially for fiction, but their limited open hours may conflict with teen schedules and the location of the library may make it unattainable for teens to visit if they don't have transportation.


1. During my internship, we watched student readers grow from three teens to over 20!
2. Teens became excited over new books!
3. School Librarians could count on their arrival and saved much time with not having to process them themselves.
4. The YA Librarian had a chance to highlight forgotten but great reads.
5. Circulations increased - both for the school library and the public library.
6. This program is easy to implement!

What You Need

1. Internet access
2. Google account
3. Library card for your school
4. Books you're willing to part with long term

How It Works

1. We created a Google Form that looked like the image below. The form worked for checkouts, the spreadsheet (second image) was great for seeing who had which book.
2. The YA Librarian selected 20-30 books and checked them out on the School Library's library card. They updated the list on the Google Form.
3. The YA Librarian dropped off the books to the school.
4. The School Media Specialist displayed the books prominently in the library.
5. When teens checked them out or returned them, the School Media Specialist used the Google Form.
6. Two months later, the YA Librarian came with new books and took the available books back, checking them in and clearing them from the school's library card.
7. The School Media Specialist was responsible with following up on students to make sure books are returned; however, if any weren't back by summer vacation, the books were marked "Lost" and the public library bought a new copy.

The Check In/Out Form

Spreadsheet, available to only the librarians

Want to Create Your Own?

Don't reinvent the wheel! We created a template for you:

1. Make a copy of our Google Form and update it.
2. Make a generic "Floating Collection" library card and then check your books out on it.
3. Type the title of these books on the Google Form for checkout. (We did them alphabetically by title.)
4. Save the live form URL on your laptop or email it to the person checking the books out.
5. Go to the new location and start checking in/out books on this form to your patrons!


1. If you select books that are part of the series, keep in mind they won't return to your shelves while they are at the school. (Missing first books in series might discourage new readers.)
2. I didn't send over new books unless I bought a second copy. I pulled older reads that were lost on the shelves.
3. If a book was checked out multiple times at the school, I did check them in multiple times on the school card to reflect that for our records.
4. We included a section for special requests so teens could ask for anything specific, including the next book in the series.
5. If your schools have summer reading books, they might return the favor and let you circulate their copies during the summer. :-)
6. Lastly, this process will work anywhere that you want to have a floating collection -- nursing homes, comic cons, etc. We only had two books not returned since I started this program five years ago, and that's because the students had moved away.

And that's how it worked for us. I'm sure there are other ways to run a floating book collection, too. If you decide to use this idea, please let us know in the comments!

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