This May Shock You, but I REALLY DO Love Libraries, Librarians AND Nonfiction!

My recent post questioning the money we spend on nonfiction texts in the media center has generated a ton of interesting dialogue, y’all.

If you haven’t read through the comment sections — both of my personal blog AND of my blog on the Center for Teaching Quality’s website — you should.  The conversation is bound to make you think about the way that we access nonfiction content, about the changing nature of the school library,  and about the role that print collections play in capturing the imagination of our students.

I wanted to correct a few misconceptions, though.

Perhaps most importantly, to argue that I am “not a friend of the school media center” — a comment made in an anonymous email that ended up in my inbox today with the subject line “Disturbing online blog about school library media programs from Bill Ferriter” just isn’t true.  What bothers me the most about that assumption is that I tried pretty hard in the text of my piece to make it clear that libraries are beautiful places that need to be supported and that I’m as ticked as y’all are that our libraries aren’t fully funded.

But I’m also willing to ask provocative questions that are going to make all of us feel uncomfortable once in awhile simply because the cognitive dissonance that comes from questions that challenge what you know and feel is the spark that leads to good conversation — and good conversations are the starting point for real learning.

I also want to point out that there really ISN’T a bigger fan of nonfiction content than me.

My classroom bookshelf is FULL of engaging nonfiction content and I’m always selling it to my students in class book talks.  My best friend runs several reading groups for our kids and I’m constantly giving him guff for not ever picking nonfiction titles and our school librarian is tired of hearing me argue that our annual Salem Reads event — designed to get our entire school to read the same book — should be a nonfiction title instead of yet another hot fiction read.

My purpose for my original post wasn’t to suggest that nonfiction isn’t important.  It was to suggest that we need to give students MORE access to nonfiction content in MORE places, something I think is best done on tight budgets by investing in more devices and giving kids access to well curated online content in more places.  As my buddy likes to say, “Let’s quit bringing the kids to the nonfiction content and start bringing the nonfiction content to the kids.”

Finally, I want you to know that I believe in librarians.  I really do.  

Heck, our school has a REMARKABLE librarian that leaves me inspired every time that I talk with him.  More importantly, he leaves my STUDENTS inspired every time that THEY talk to him.  He has an uncanny knack for turning kids on to the right book at the right time; he has built a remarkable collection of age appropriate digital and print content for our kids to explore; and he embraces the notion that traditional library spaces don’t serve students particularly well.

The best part is that he’s not the only librarian doing good work for schools.  I know because every time I write about libraries, I’m buried in a sea of stories about the remarkable work that YOUR school’s media specialists are doing.

Hope this helps.

More importantly, I hope you’re still willing to wrestle with difficult questions with me.  If I had to start writing a sea of smiles-and-candycorn bits because I was afraid of hurting feelings all the time, I’d lose my digital mind.  True learning depends on thunderclaps, not sunshine and daffodils.



Related Radical Reads:

Is Stocking Library Shelves with Nonfiction Content a Waste of Money?

3 thoughts on “This May Shock You, but I REALLY DO Love Libraries, Librarians AND Nonfiction!

  1. Jennifer


    I agree with your thoughts on the fact that we need more resources readily available to our students ready to explore new topics that are interesting to them. I don’t see where anyone would get the idea that you are bashing libraries or librarians, you just seem to be expressing the need for more resources and non fiction prints.

  2. Elisa Waingort

    Hi Bill, I agree with you about rattling brains and causing dissonance. We need to ask uncomfortable questions that will hopefully move us all to higher ground. I agree that we need to diversify access to non fiction literature. I don’t understand why anyone could argue with that. Your point about non fiction print books not meeting the needs of kids’ growing interests makes sense. Thanks for continuing to push buttons.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Thanks, Elisa.

      My goal is always to cause cognitive dissonance — both for me AND for readers. I figure it’s the only way to push the conversation about what schools should be forward.

      Rock right on,

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