Technology has given us the capacity to change the way we do so many things in the classroom. It seems no matter the task, there is always an app for that.
Classroom library management is no exception. We spend a lot of time and money building our classroom libraries; it makes sense to invest in a reliable management system in order to keep track of all those precious books we loan out to students. But up until recently, this has been a time-consuming and tedious task.
Fortunately, there is indeed an app to make this aspect of classroom life a little easier. Book Retriever
is a low-cost iPhone app that allows for the creation of a classroom library database. It is very easy to use—simply scan the ISBN barcode on the back of a book, and the app will identify and add that book to the classroom library list. The book listing includes title, author, cover photo, and the number of titles available, as well as Lexile level, grade level, and the current price to purchase a replacement.
While this is amazing in itself, the extra features are really what make this app. No barcode? No problem. Create a barcode by entering the necessary information and print a label via a wireless printer, then attach the barcode to the book. Occasionally a book will have an unrecognizable ISBN, in which case the teacher will need to enter the title and author information for the book. (Scholastic titles, unfortunately, tend to be the books that most often carry these oddball numbers.) Luckily, this doesn't make the app unusable, but it will require a little more time and effort to get these books entered into your online database. As an added bonus, the barcode creation feature also makes it possible for the teacher to enter other items into the database. Anything that can have a label stuck to it could be checked out through this app, which is incredibly handy in a classroom setting!
Another fantastic feature is the ability to select a student to see what books the student currently has checked out. Books can also be searched by ISBN, title, author, etc., allowing the teacher to see who is in possession of a book at any given time. A full list of books in the database is offered, which is excellent for insurance purposes, as well as for reference when choosing new titles to add to the library. This library listing can be sorted by title or author, or by check out status. The status selection option provides a complete list of books that are currently checked out. In addition, a leveled reading chart, a list of "Hot Books," and tips for creating an engaging classroom library are included.
Once all the books in a library have been scanned into the app, the teacher creates a class list. Student names need to be entered, and the teacher has the option of including a variety of other information, including parent emails. When a student wishes to check out a book, the teacher simply selects the “Check Out” option in the app, scans the book, and chooses a student name from the list. The default due date is two weeks from the day the book was checked out, but this can easily be changed when the book is scanned. Another excellent feature of this app is the late notice reminders that automatically get sent to parent email addresses when a book is overdue. Checking a book in is as easy as selecting the “Check In” option and scanning the barcode.
Perhaps one of the best features of Book Retriever is that it is ideal for a classroom with limited technology access. It can be used efficiently in a classroom with a single iPad, or with a teacher's iPhone. Since the app is not a free download, I only purchased it for my iPad, instead of spending the money to install it on every iPad in my classroom. With check in and out only requiring a quick scan, we easily manage with the app on a single device. It does, however, require a Wi-Fi connection to properly create an online database.
Of course, few apps exist that are models of perfection, and Book Retriever does have a bug or two. Some users have reported difficulty in creating an account. The developer suggests avoiding spaces and special characters when creating a username, as this tends to cause problems. I had some difficulty getting my password verified, but after several tries was finally able to get it working and create my account. The good news is that the developer seems to be quite responsive to any problems, so users who have difficulty should not hesitate to ask for assistance.
Book Retriever is very reasonably priced at $0.99, and is currently only available as an iPhone/iPod Touch app (which can also be used on the iPad). A desktop version
is available on the developer website, but it appears no other mobile platforms are currently supported. Book Retriever can be previewed and downloaded here
. Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.
© 2013 Lindsey Fuller. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.