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 traditionally structured 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?

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  • ReneeMoore

    Important to Ask These Questions

    Glad you’re not letting the misguided feedback deter you from doing what I love most about your blogs: asking the questions out loud that too many people just murmur under their breath in the lounge. 

    We need these discussions within our profession, not to offend, but to honestly examine and air important points and perspectives. The responses on that post have done exactly that. It’s the sign of a mature profession that we can critique and reflect on ourselves and our work. Well done.

  • MO2L


    As a Library Paraproffessional who runs a vibrant, well utilized school library, I have to say that in my experience there are a lot of Librarians who would rather defend their positions and their old fashioned ideas about libraries then work to adapt to a profession and concept that is clearly changing. The word Luddite comes to mind. I’m often taken to task for not being certified, but I work in a district that does not hire certified librarians at the elementary level. I do believe that we need to look at various ways of getting information into the hands of our patrons, and traditional non-fiction library books are a good place to start. I would rather pay to have an online encyclopedia instead of a paper one, and I would rather save shelf space for beautiful informative non-fiction books then buy a set of state books or other set of books. I am with you on this as are many progressive librarians. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. 

    • Bill Ferriter

      Thanks for the kind words,

      Thanks for the kind words, Renee and MO2L. 

      I’m not discouraged, really.  I’m more surprised by how asking difficult questions can get you labeled as someone who has “disturbing” ideas or who “isn’t a friend of the school library.”

      Anyway…Hope you’re both well, 


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