Since I began teaching, I have always my students to take home books form my classroom library to read at home. I want them reading every night and in fact I require them to read a minimum of 20 minutes a night. However, I teach in a Title I school and found out early on, that many of them did not have any books at home to read. I couldn't require them to do something without them having adequate resources to do it.
My first year of teaching, I (naively) used the honor system for borrowing classroom books. If they borrowed a book, they knew (or so I thought) that they had to return it. With the size of my class, I really had no handle on who had what book. At the end of my first year, my classroom library was missing about 60 books. I couldn't go to the last student who borrowed a particular book that was now missing because I had no idea who had borrowed it.
The next year, I started using index cards to facilitate check in and check out. That worked great for a few year but I still had missing books and a lot of times I did not have an easy way to figure out who had it, nor did I have a way to notify parents if the book had been checked out but was not returned.
A few months ago, I came across the app "Book Retriever" and it upped my game plan for facilitating book check in and check out in my classroom. It has also helped me manage my classroom library more efficiently.
The company who develops and sells the app (it costs 99 cents for iPhone or iPad) is The Classroom Library Company. They have a huge database of books embedded in the app so as soon as you scan the bar-code on the back of a book, the book's info comes up (most of the time) and you just add that book to your online class library. The app will then recognize that bar code/book for you to check it out to a student. There have been a few glitches (we all know technology is GREAT--when it is working). However, noting major, that would keep me form continuing to use it and go back to my old methods. The app even allows you to create your own bar-codes. However, you have to have access to a wireless printer. I have one at home but not at school. Eventually I will have my entire classroom library bar-coded.
I really love this app...check it out. I think it will change your life (okay, maybe just make it a little easier!!)