Breathe New Life into Nonfiction

Breathe New Life into Nonfiction
By: Lauren K. Lee, M.Ln.

Is your adult nonfiction collection earning its keep? If circulation has dropped, your budget allocation may have dropped as well thus leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In looking at all the end of the year best books lists, the nonfiction titles trend heavily toward memoirs.  You have already bought those and you will keep buying test books and diet books. But please don’t give short shrift to this multidimensional part of the collection! 

Despite the internet and electronic media, there are plenty of attractive and informative titles waiting to be discovered by you and your clientele. Even though the Dewey 150s house the official self-help books, the entire nonfiction collection can be considered self-help.  

Spend some time perusing adult nonfiction on your vendor’s website.  Look for attention-grabbing titles, subjects, and covers.  On, explore the categories on the left side of the Lists tab.   Open the Featured Lists for the monthly Picks for Public Libraries; open Public Library Collection Builders for the 100s, the 600s or the 700s. 

Here are a few topics that have caught my eye lately: projecting your voice, retiring abroad, mixing a medicinal tea, making your own kimchi, and skills for private investigators. 

After you have purchased/gathered a good group of “sexy” titles, consider your options for displaying them where your users congregate.  Would your computer users be tempted by titles that offered job search assistance without colorful parachutes?  Would your story-time parents appreciate ideas for home craft projects or dealing with the sensitive child? Would teens pick up books on hairstyling or sports from the adult collection if they were positioned right outside the teen space?  Ask your board or fairy godmother for attractive display stands or colorful graphics.  Put (tempting) books literally under people’s noses for an impulse checkout—think of all those point-of-purchase displays in stores.   Use your imagination in order to capture the eye and library card of people who might otherwise leave without a stack of books.

You’ll want to measure the results in simple or official ways.  How often do you need to restock the displays?  Has circulation increased in adult nonfiction overall or in specific areas?  If so, allocate a little more money to keep the trend going.  Involve all the staff in preparing the displays so that they are always on the lookout for potential titles.

Most importantly, remember that adult nonfiction can enrich lives in tangible ways.  The public library is not just the people’s university.  It can be the trade school, science lab, practice field, and idea factory.  Get inspired by nonfiction today.