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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Private and Public

My host here in Houston has been Dorcas Hand, the librarian at the AOS School, and also the editor of a book on Independent School Libraries. She has worked in independent schools throughout her carerr, and talking with her (and reading the book) made me realize that neither I nor any publisher I’ve ever worked worth has made a clear enough distinction between selling nonfiction to public schools and selling to private schools.

As Dorcas explained, there are pros and cons for each kind of school, and also real differences. The private schools (this is 101 for many of you, but I head never really weighed out the implications) have greater freedom in that they are not governed by state mandated testing or NCLB evidence of progress assessments or state standards. But on the other hand, they are defined by the mission of that school and the decisions of the board. So, of course, the school may be religious, military prep, progressive, or any version thereof.  I went to a private progressive school from nursery school through college, and I certainly do recall how that school encouraged us to think and question — which, more broadly, private schools have the freedom to do.

Or they have that freedom if that is within the mission of that school. One chapter that Dorcas herself wrote is about the book challenges that can arise in a school where important parents, funders, board members have a strong say and the librarian is not protected by public laws and hearing processes.

I bring all of this up because I think that some nonfiction books probably will have an easier time finding a home in private schools than public schools. So I wonder if we shouldn’t develop marketing efforts to bring books to the attention of those librarians first — in effect test the books in a market that has more freedom, more latitude, then — as we learn how the books have been used, bring that information to public schools. In other words, in clumping together School Libraries are we really making a mistake, when we should be finding different ways to reach out to different worlds.

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