Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for December, 2015|Monthly archive page

In Defense of Non-Fiction

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2015 at 6:21 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts, MLS

In Defense of Non-Fiction

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Recently I have been asked about the relevance of Non-Fiction books.  It has been suggested that they are useless, a waste of money.

I never dreamed that I would have to lay out a defense of Non-Fiction books, but given the recent questions (as well as the intellectually precarious times we live in), I think it’s time.  Personally, I have been deeply in love with Non-Fiction books since I was a little girl.  I read fiction, poetry…all sort of books…but nothing attracts me more than Non-Fiction.  I always have some sort of Non-Fiction title at my side.  A cookbook, a history, a biography.  I even write Non-Fiction.   I also order it for our library.

But, what exactly is Non-Fiction?  We have a big sign hanging from the ceiling at the Lewiston Public Library to direct our patrons to this large section of books.  Why do we even include it in our library collections?

First of all, Non-Fiction is defined as “prose writing that is based on facts, real events, and real people, such as biography or history.”  As a result Non-Fiction includes: history, poetry, psychology, religion, philosophy, political science, finance, true crime, languages, health and medicine, gardening, pets, cooking, home repair, parenting, child development, business, home-building, landscaping, antiques, crafts, interior design, art, sports, literature, poetry, travel, history, local history and biography.

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Non-Fiction books are usually written by experts in a field of study.  Experts are individuals who spend lifetimes researching a particular subject.  They know more than the average person.  Their knowledge is deep.  They have earned a certain authority to be called an “expert” and they usually write books in order to share their knowledge with the world.

Many people cannot afford to purchase every single book that they would like to read.  Nor can they afford a personal one-on-one meeting with an “expert.”    Sure, you can look EVERYTHING up on the internet.  There is a lot of information out there and that is great.  However, librarians (and I am learning many, many other professionals) are beginning to realize that there is one BIG problem with this plethora of information:  much of it is inherently flawed and outrageously incorrect.  So what do we do?  We need to learn to sift through the immense ocean of information for the “real information” that has been provided by experts.  We spend hours doing this in library school.  We do exercise after exercise to learn to “weed out” the “bad information.”  And how do we do this?  We learn to recognize the authorities and where to find the “real information.”  We also learn the hallmarks of “bad information.”  And usually—it is safe to say–we can find most of the “real information” in the Non-Fiction section of the library.

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I am not sure if our patrons know how carefully we choose our books. With tight budgets, we have to be sure to use our money wisely. We read reviews in special library journals.  We keep up on the current interests of the community and the nation.  We get to know local experts and authors. We read extensively, ourselves.  We look to see where our collection might have gaps in up-to-date information.  In reality, we can’t possibly house the entire knowledge of the world.  But, I will promise you this:  if there is something that you desperately need and we don’t have it in our collection we will do our very best to lead you to that information.

Our latest new titles include (among many others): books that will help men and women who have spent time in the military to enter college  http://www.amazon.com/Army-College-Transitioning-Service-Education/dp/1442248068/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449938496&sr=1-1&keywords=from+the+army+to+college+transitioning+from+the+service+to+higher+education, a history of dissent in the Supreme Court  http://www.amazon.com/Army-College-Transitioning-Service-Education/dp/1442248068/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449938496&sr=1-1&keywords=from+the+army+to+college+transitioning+from+the+service+to+higher+education, a study of the threat of ISIS by experts in the field  http://www.amazon.com/New-Threat-Islamic-Militancy/dp/1847923488/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449939093&sr=1-1&keywords=the+new+threat+from+islamic+militancy+jason+burke, a book on the actual science behind magical things   http://www.amazon.com/Science-Magical-Grail-Potions-Superpowers/dp/1476777101/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449939138&sr=1-1&keywords=science+of+the+magical , the latest research by top scientists on Parkinson’s Disease  http://www.amazon.com/Brain-Storms-Mysteries-Parkinsons-Disease/dp/0374116172/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449940812&sr=1-1&keywords=brain+storms+the+race+to+unlock+the+mysteries+of+parkinson+s+disease and Alzheimer’s Disease http://www.amazon.com/End-Memory-Natural-History-Alzheimers/dp/125007648X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449940854&sr=1-1&keywords=end+of+memory+a+natural+history+of+aging+and+alzheimer%27s, a photographic art essay on war http://www.amazon.com/War-Beautiful-Pictorial-Glamour-Conflict/dp/1576877590/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449940908&sr=1-1&keywords=war+is+beautiful, a guide to sustainable living  http://www.amazon.com/Better-Everyday-Art-Sustainable-Living/dp/086571794X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449940972&sr=1-1&keywords=better+the+everyday+art+of+sustainable+living , a book on the lost art of reading nature’s signs http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Art-Reading-Natures-Signs/dp/1615192417/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449941017&sr=1-1&keywords=lost+art+of+reading+nature%27s+signs, a book on recovery for parents of children who are addicted to drugs  http://www.amazon.com/Loving-Addicted-Daughters-Back-Life/dp/1937612856/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449941114&sr=1-1&keywords=loving+our+addicted+daughters+back+to+life, the art and health benefits of fermenting vegetables http://www.amazon.com/Ferment-Your-Vegetables-Flavorful-Pickles/dp/1592336825/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449941167&sr=1-1&keywords=ferment+your+vegetables, the art of digital technology and creativity   http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Handmade-Craftsmanship-Industrial-Revolution/dp/0500517851/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449941221&sr=1-1&keywords=digital+handmade, a biography of Queen Elizabeth http://www.amazon.com/Young-Elizabeth-Making-Kate-Williams/dp/160598891X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449941285&sr=1-1&keywords=young+elizabeth+the+making+of+the+queen+by+kate+williams.

This is only a snapshot of our latest books.  We have educational books, fun books, artistic books, travel guides.   We have books that tell the story of our local history.  I always welcome feedback and suggestions.  What kinds of titles would you like to see?

I think there is something for everyone in our mix and I hope you will think of checking out some Non-Fiction the next time you are at the library.  It won’t cost you anything and it will feed your brain.  I think we are all tired of listening to the angry, ignorant commentaries by so many Americans on social media and elsewhere that pop up with every news story.  So many people do NOT have actual facts or substance to back up their arguments and they are reduced to rely upon soundbites that they have found on the internet.  Honestly, I think people are so angry because they are hungry for actual knowledge.

As a nation we need to become more intelligent.  We need to fight ignorance.  Sure… you must have your own opinions and you must fight for them—but, please, read some books.  There’s a time and a place for all types of literature—but in order to be a better citizen of the world—Non-Fiction books are often good choices.  I hope that there will always be a place for them in our libraries.  If the day ever comes when they are considered a waste of money or obsolete…well, I don’t really want to even imagine that sort of world.