Daily Archives: May 19, 2008

Nonfiction for everyone

I was once asked by a library patron why librarians need a Master’s degree if all we do is stack books all day.  While it is true that we do sometimes “stack books,” this view of what librarians do may be a bit simplistic.  One of my favorite parts of this vocation is how varied the work is.  At the end of each day, I may have worked on 10 different tasks: answering questions at the Ask-A-Librarian desk, shelving books, preparing for a program, hosting a program, ordering new books, making a display, repairing damaged books, writing book reviews, looking for books you say you returned, and of course attending meetings!


One of my responsibilities at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main is building and maintaining the First Floor’s New and Featured Nonfiction collection.  I often define these books as the “readable” nonfiction books—a collection that patrons can browse to find something engaging to read. This collection includes (among myriad other topics): inspiring sports stories, guides to finding and maintaining true love, romps through Medieval European history, memoirs about miserable childhoods, hilarious travelogues, guides to the newest diets and fitness routines, and biographies of the most glamorous stars of yesteryear. 


Here are a few questions I ask myself when selecting items for this collection: Do the professional reviewers in Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist give the books high praise?  Do they use terms like “engaging,” “engrossing,” and “for the general reader”?  How reputable is the publisher?  How popular is the author?  How many other libraries and booksellers have this item on order? And how many copies is the publisher making for its first publishing: 10,000 or 100,000?  I may also check to see if the books are going to be featured on radio and television programs. 


There is something for everyone in the New and Featured Nonfiction collection.  Stop by and check it out!



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