The New Nonfiction

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You’ve finally made peace with the fact that the nonfiction section is the official No Man’s Land in your school. I know. It hurts. It’s hard to let go of a tradition that spans centuries. It’s hard to acknowledge that those beautiful, big repositories of information are no longer the preferred source for life’s big questions. The fact is that they are little more than dust collectors. As such, it’s time to bite the bullet and put the brakes on your unpopular paper and ink collection. Now hold on just a second. I didn’t say pull the plug. It’s ok to continue a little dabbling in nonfiction books. You just need to be super selective and really pay attention to what kids want. Books must be able to sell the topic and offer something that the internet can’t easily satisfy.

So how do you sell the topic? First of all, it’s important to understand WHICH topics sell. Since the internet has successfully cornered the market on teacher-assigned research topics, it’s safe to say that loading up on traditional information books for those history or science classes is not going to improve your circulation stats. Sadly, Google is the new card catalog when it comes to class assignments. However, when it comes to personal interests, kids will still gravitate toward a good book they can hold and spend a little quality time with. Here are some tips to help you find great books for your nonfiction collection.

  1. Analyze the fiction circulation stats. Chances are that if there’s a popular book in the fiction collection, kids will want to devour whatever related material they can get their hands on. As the curator of the collection, you will be able to direct kids to the related nonfiction books.
  2. Choose books with themes that kids aren’t likely to think about when they are sitting at home on their computers. Teen issues, natural disasters, self-improvement, pop culture, and current events are examples of topics that kids will explore if prompted by an interesting book. Current events cross many content categories so you’ll have no problem filling out your Dewey sections.
  3. Choose books with a conversational tone. Nothing speaks better to kids than a voice they can relate to, or at least one that doesn’t sound like a professor. Historical books are now written to be enjoyable rather than impressive and kids are taking note.
  4. Choose publishers that are known for their high graphic display of information. DK publishing relies heavily on photographs to draw readers into the content while keeping it interesting and unusual.
  5. Work with the teachers. Ask each of them to provide a list of assigned research topics. Update your collection with new books on those topics. If the books also meet the criteria for language and graphic quality, they may be able to compete with whatever the internet has to offer.

There you have it. A few suggestions to help you tackle the monumental problem of nonfiction desertion. The collection doesn’t need to go away; it just needs to change. And probably downsize quite a bit. Employ a few strategic methods and you will likely see an increase in circulation. Internet competition is here to stay. The challenge is to prove that a viable alternative still, and always has, existed.

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