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30 Minute Library Lessons: Ideas for Busy Elementary Librarians

Don’t let a busy schedule keep you from providing engaging library programming. These 30-minute library lessons are perfect for busy elementary librarians who find themselves short on time but not passion.

What to do with 30 minute library lessons?

Some of the buildings I work in have 30 minute library classes, while others have as little as 15 minutes. You can still get a lot done and somehow still get a good lesson in with that time even with checkout. You should be able to implement most if not all of these ideas with the right planning and preparation.

1. Book Talks: Quick and Engaging Reviews

Book talks are a great way to get your students excited about reading under-circulated classics. They can also be used to promote new books in your collection. In just 30 minutes, you can give a quick and engaging review of a book, highlighting its plot, characters, and themes. You can also provide recommendations for similar books or books in the same genre. Upper grade students could also give the book talks after seeing you give them.

2. Mini Makerspace: Simple STEM Activities

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to incorporate STEM activities into your library programming, try setting up a mini makerspace. In just 30 minutes, you can provide kids with simple and fun STEM activities that encourage creativity and problem-solving. Some ideas for mini makerspace activities include building structures with toothpicks and marshmallows, creating paper airplanes, or designing and testing a simple circuit. Lego walls are also quite popular. If you’re looking for more ideas, I have a lot more ideas in my What to Buy For Your Library That Isn’t Books article. Students could come in, check out, and then do the Mini Makerspace activity once they’ve finished.

3. Speed Dating with Books: A Fun Way to Introduce New Titles

If you’re looking for a fun and engaging way to introduce new titles to your students, try hosting a Speed Dating with Books event. Set up tables with different genres or themes and have participants rotate around the room, spending a few minutes at each table to learn about the books on display. This is a great way to get patrons excited about new titles and encourage them to check out books they may not have otherwise considered. Plus, it can be done in just 30 minutes!

Don't let a busy schedule keep you from providing engaging library programming. These 30-minute library lessons are perfect for busy elementary librarians who find themselves short on time but not passion.

4. Book Blind Dates

Wrap some books in paper bags and write some brief, attention-grabbing descriptions on them. Students choose a book based only on what is written on the wrapping. Watch as students delight in discovering the book they chose isn’t what they expected but STILL enjoy it!

5. Library Tour

Introduce students to a new part of the library. If you have a genrefied library, you can introduce some of the different sections. You could also spend a few weeks teaching the different Dewey sections. This could be combined with the book talks idea to book talk a few books in the section to highlight some exemplar books in that part of the library.

6. How to Use the Library Catalog

This is another lesson that can take several weeks. Teach students how to use the library catalog and how to narrow their searches with filters for things like genre, language, format and more. Quick lessons that let students practice and immediately use the learning to search for books!

7. Research Basics: Tips for Conducting Effective Research

If you want your students to use effective research strategies, they need to know what they are and how to use them. Teachers also need to know what databases and encyclopedias are available to them, so teaching quick research tips will help students as well as staff. This is especially true if you can collaborate with teachers to know when they will be conducting research. In the brief time available, it’s best to highlight one resource during your 30 minute library lessons and show some of the features.

8. Evaluating sources: How to determine if a source is reliable and credible?

This is an especially important lesson that can be done quickly with any grade level doing research. Teach this in combination with research strategies to help students use reliable sources and to be able to evaluate if any non-library databases are reliable or not.

9. Placing Holds on Library Materials

If you allow students to place holds on materials that they want to use, you need to teach them how. Most library catalogs and OPACs make this fairly easy. With limited library time, this can be a huge time saver because if students already have their books ready to be checked out, you have more time for your library lesson!

10. Citing Sources

Upper grades need to learn how to cite sources for their research, and the library databases and resources often have easy ways to cite sources. Most teachers don’t know about them, though! Be the hero when teachers are showing a more complicated way of citing sources, when students tell them that you already taught them an easier way!

11. E-books and Audiobooks: How to access and download eBooks and audiobooks

Whether you have a small digital collection, a big digital collection or your students use other sources for digital reading like Epic!, students need to know how to use them. This is also a great opportunity to educate teachers about the benefits of offering multiple ways to read including listening to audiobooks.

12. Library Events and Programs: Learn about upcoming library events and programs

Quick library lessons for elementary are also great for introducing and reviewing library programs that you’re doing. Things like Lunch Bunch, Battle of the Books, March Madness, Readers Cafe, etc. are just a few programs. This again might be mixed with book talks if the program features any certain books.

13. Promote Programs For the Public Library

This is a great one any time that the public library is offering a really cool program. At the end of the year when you stop doing checkout, you can always bring them in to talk about the local summer reading program!

14. Shelf Care

It might be simple, but it’s something that pays dividends every time you teach and reteach it. Showing and practicing with students how to use shelf markers, helps you keep your shelves in order. It also helps students find the books that they’re looking for because more books will be where they are supposed to be.

15. Book Care

At the beginning of the year, both younger and older students should hear about how to care for books. Each grade level and group has its own problems when it comes to book care. For some, it might be about returning books or how to not lose them. For other groups, it might be about keeping food and drinks away from books.

16. How to Read Graphic Novels and Wordless Books

Reading graphic novels is as much a skill as reading text. Graphic novels follow some of their own rules for reading and have specific features just like informational texts. Treating graphic novels like other texts tells students that reading graphic novels is indeed reading and valued. So, show them how to read graphic novels and wordless picture books!

17. Using Call Numbers

Tired of constantly walking students to the exact location of a book because they found the book on your library catalog and now don’t know where to find it? Teach them how to use call numbers to find their books!

18. Library Games

There are some great free library games out there including the Library Shelf Order videogame and the Librarian Assistant Game! Do a short introduction, let kids checkout and then they can play the game, all during your 30 minute library lessons!

19. Coding Games

Teaching coding through games doesn’t need to be a one a year for the Hour of Code. There are a lot of free coding games out there that you can try with your students.

20. Keyboarding and Typing Games

The library is sometimes the place where students are taught and teachers are expected to teach pretty much everything else that isn’t covered in the classroom. Keyboarding/typing on a computer is one of them. You dont’ want students hunting and pecking their whole lives, especially not with so many free typing games!

21. Find the Book!

Provide students with clues and have them find the book that it corresponds to. You might give students a call number and they have to find the book title. It could also mean giving students a few clues that they put into your library catalog like Destiny Discover and then use the filters to find the one book that it corresponds to.

22. Flipped Instruction

With this type of lesson you could take a normal lesson and provide it digitally. Students could either complete the lesson individually before check out or after check out.

23. Read Aloud

With the proper planning and preparation, you can read an entire picture book and have an engaging discussion during your 30 minute library lessons all while still having check out. Here are some great free library lesson plans to try.

24. Blackout Poetry

Ever wonder what to do with the books you’ve weeded and no one wants? Rip some pages out of the books and pull out some black markers. Let students create their own poetry by blacking out the words they don’t want. The words that aren’t blacked out become the poem!

25. First Chapter Book Teasers

Read the first chapter or a really interesting chapter from a book to grab students’ attention. Allow students to check out the book afterwards when you send students off to check out books.

Don't let a busy schedule keep you from providing engaging library programming. These 30-minute library lessons are perfect for busy elementary librarians who find themselves short on time but not passion.


Despite having a mere 30 minute library lesson, you can still get a lot done with these ideas and the right preparation. Do you have any other ideas for quick library lessons? Let me know in the comments!

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Hey there! I’m Josh from Picture Book Brain here to share only the best literature for you to use with your students. If you are looking for a specific book, use the search bar below to check my archives. Glad you’re here, and glad to help you!

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