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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Knowledge Test

Will this idea of changing "non-fiction" to "knowledge" catch on? I hope so. I tried the idea out during a school visit on Friday, and the librarian liked it. In her comment Betsy raises the point that non-fiction as defined by libraries is not limited to Knowledge (at least as usually defined). But while this is a concern to librarians, I think that for kids, parents, teachers separating out Knowledge from poetry, drama, folktales would be an advantage. Is "how-to" knowledge? I would say it is a perfect definition of the acquisition of knowledge, and so not a stretch at all. 

While we are at it, I’d change the Sibert language, from "informational" books to "knowledge" books as well. To inform is to pass on data, settled bits of truth. To acquire knowledge suggests thinking, comprehending, you yourself expanding. Knowledge surely includes a great deal of information. But acquiring information does not necessarily add up to knowledge. So I suggest we describe the goal as the larger ambition, but of course remain open to books that do an exceptional job of fulfilling the smaller task. 

Aside from the institutional inertia that of course resists large-scale change, is there any objection to this idea? Is there any reason why every library should not learn from Megan and have a Wall of Knowledge to entice readers? I remember when Michael Cart and I began working to create a YA Newbery, it did not seem possible. But it happened, and that shows fundamental change is possible in our world. How about this change?


  1. Loree Burns says:

    I have been mulling this idea of yours for days. Something niggled at my brain, and I realized today what it was: in Britain, the phrase ‘The Knowledge’ refers to the geographic information that would-be taxi drivers must assimilate before licensure. Shouldn’t pose a problem for the ‘large-scale change’ you propose here in the US.

    Now, how does one (or, say, one group of committed writers of Knowledge) bring about such change?

    Loree Burns

  2. Marc Aronson says:

    Loree: I did not know that, will have to keep it in mind when next in London. What can we do? To modify the 60s phrase, think ALA, act locally. So I would encourage any librarian to enact the overall switch, or at least the change in naming new books, in her or his library. At the same time, any of you who have contacts in ALA (I used one already) pass the suggestion up the line for things such as Sibert rules. And I am thinking of starting by changing the name of this blog to Knolwedge Matters — what do you all think?