How to Have a Shared Library Without Spreading Illness

Teachers like me are trying desperately to maintain a sense of "normal" as we head back to school, but shared parts of the classroom, like libraries, are in question. Can they be used? If yes, how can we do it safely? Here are my unofficial thoughts on this issue.

Classroom library sign with text, "How to Have a Shared Library Without Spreading Illness."

Please note that I am not a medical expert and am basing my conclusions on the research listed below. Please do your own research and contact your school district for information on requirements and guidelines in your area.

My research has indicated that the Coronavirus does not live on surfaces, even porous ones like paper, for more than five days at the most. (Read about my findings from the CDC, Canadian Public Health, and WebMD.)

This leads me to feel comfortable opening my shared classroom library with some strict guidelines for use.

How We Will Use Our Classroom Library

My students will be required to wash or sanitize their hands following our district's guidelines before touching any of the books in our classroom library.

They'll peruse the collection and choose the book they would like to read, keeping it at school at all times. I usually allow my students to carry books between home and school, but to minimize the risk of virus transmission that will no longer be allowed.

When they're finished, students will return their book to the bin labeled with that day of the week. Books returned on a Tuesday will be placed in the Tuesday bin, while books returned on a Friday will be placed in the Friday bin.

Classroom library quarantine bins.

These books will not be touched until the same day in the following week.

This means that the books are "quarantined" for seven days, enough time for any Coronavirus exposure to not survive. 

On the morning of each day, I will remove the previous week's books and reshelve them into our bins for students to access again.

Grab Your Own Bin Labels

If you'd like to try this system, with the support of your school district, and would like to use my bin labels, you can grab them free right here:

Free classroom library quarantine bin labels.

I'd love to hear how you're keeping your classroom as "normal" as possible during this challenging time! Reach out by email at questions {at} or leave a comment below!

You might also be interested in the ideas I've shared in this blog post:

Hand holding computer mouse with text, "How to Easily Use Pages From One Google Resource in Another."

If you have enjoyed this post, please share it with friends and colleagues on Facebook or pin it on Pinterest:

Classroom library bins with text, "How to Have a Shared Library Without Spreading Illness."


  1. Erin, I love your ideas and your style! Thank you for sharing your knowledge. The best to you as you begin school. We start our 2nd week today and I hope we can continue.

    1. Thanks so much, Meg! I wish you all the best as well. Stay safe!


  2. Will you have a "you touch it you take it" rule to allow students to browse through books or will you put books in their bins for them?

    1. I will allow them to browse after washing or sanitizing their hands, and require them to wash again when they’ve chosen a book.

  3. I love your plan for having them select and return books. It is so hard to have a shrunken library. I am prioritizing books that I know students have loved as the ones to keep in school. I will be trading them once a month with the ones I have stored at home. There are also many Book Club books that can be used to combat the "Shrunken Library Syndrome" that so many teachers are experiencing. This will solve the need for trips to the library.

    1. Yeah, I can't stomach the thought of losing my classroom library. It is the most important part of my classroom. I'm so glad we've found a way to make it work. All the best to you. Stay well!


  4. Thank you for sharing your ideas on your blog! I am a pre-service teacher that has followed you for a long time and admire how you have adapted your classroom for Covid and still do the most to keep life similar but safe for your students! It is easy to move online but as a tactile learner I appreciate your effort to keeping physical books! Thank you for doing all that you do, you help a lot of people!


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