Monday, October 20, 2008

Article Note: On incorporating nonfiction into readers' advisory

Citation for the article:

Alpert, Abby. "Incorporating Nonfiction into Readers' Advisory Services." Reference and User Services Quarterly 46.1 (Fall 2006): 25-32.

Read via WilsonWeb.

As an academic librarian, I don't do as much readers's advisory as my brethren in the public libraries. However, I do get the occasional question of "I need a good book to read" or "do you have something similar to X or Y?" As an avid reader myself, I also have an interest in reading and promoting it, plus I do read a good share of genre literature. And on a final reason to keep up with this type of information, I like to keep my options open in case I have to hit the job market, and I end up in a public library. One never knows. Anyhow, I additionally read a lot of nonfiction; I happen to enjoy the books often labeled as microhistories. Thus here is my interest in reading this article. The article is an overview of narrative nonfiction and how it can be incorporated into readers' advisory, which historically has focused in fiction. The article is two years old, and by now much of what it describes in terms of bringing nonfiction into RA has come to pass or is happening now. Still, the article makes for good reading to gain some solid background.

  • What the article does: "This article will provide an overview of current practices in nonfiction readers advisory, focusing primarily on narrative nonfiction, a style of nonfiction writing that adheres to the facts, but employs the literary techniques of fiction to tell a vibrant story about real events, phenomenon, people, and places" (25).
  • The challenge of finding similar nonfiction books for a patron is that they may not want books on the same topic, but with the same appeal factors. For example, if they read The Perfect Storm, they may not want another book about disasters at sea. They may want a book about overcoming challenges for instance. The example they use in the article for a book to recommend in this case would be Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage.
  • What are some traits of narrative nonfiction? "Narrative nonfiction must have: Documentable Subject Matter, Exhaustive Research, the Scene, and Fine Writing. Two additional characteristics are Style, which includes Fine Writing and Theme" (29). These are fully defined in the article.
  • What are some of the common themes: "Common themes include examinations and revelations about our society today, lessons from the events of the past, showing how an event or item impacted history or society, or illustrating how people overcame challenges or succeeded in huge undertakings" (29).
  • On promoting nonfiction: "Booklists and bookmarks are effective ways to increase circulation of titles. Displays are also popular and the opportunities for nonfiction displays are many; seasonal themes, local exhibit and event tie-ins, and staff recommendations tend to be popular" (31). We here at a disadvantage, since we remove book covers, so that makes use of books (hardcovers at least) for displays more difficult. That our book funding is next to abysmal does not make it easy either since it means we won't have current titles that would be appealing. And e-books do not count; you can't display those for one, and contrary to what many gurus in favor say, a lot of students still prefer a print book. But one goes on with the resources one is given.
  • The article also features a list of websites for further resources and information on nonfiction RA, a nice element in the article adding to the usefulness.
Additional note: Here's my note on a nonfiction RA book I read, and another post on nonfiction RA resources I did a while back. For the second post, since ALA has changed their website (and apparently redirecting is not within their scheme), I have to find where they put the list I had linked to before. I will add an update if and when I find it.

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