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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Year End Thoughts

This last post of the year gives us a chance to look back and think about what themes arose here during the year — how would we frame the year in NF for young readers? And then, of course, suggests a delicious opportunity to speculate on what will come up next year. Yes, our friend “speculate” — because the controversy over the “New Knowledge” claim in the March/April special issue of the Horn Book kicked off the year — and is still in the air, as Barbara Bader tackled the issue from a different and more historical perspective at the end of the year in the November/December issue. Indeed we are going to have a panel looking at the question of whether there is a new NF, what it might be, and what impact that might have on readers and libraries at ALA annual. The question of change and libraries points to another dominant theme this year — ebooks, apps, and the question of what kinds of materials for young readers schools and public libraries need.

Roger Sutton’s intro to the March/April NF issue begins with his musings on whether NF in general, or series NF in particular, would survive the e-onslaught. He was surprised that print NF seemed to be doing just fine. In a sense that shift from expectation to a different reality has characterized the whole e and app issue. While the publishing world is in full on flight to e — so much so that the very popularity of print books this holiday season created a crisis: publishers were terrified to overprint since they did not expect to be able to sell any leftover print books in the new year, and thus did not meet the large demand — picture book age apps have generally proved to be disappointing, and the Follett, B&T, Overdrive world has been slow to bring illustrated NF to libraries in e-formats. So the grand vision of the e library replacing the print library, especially in NF, resolved into a more modest and complex reality. If anything, I expect to see more focus on NF apps as enhancements in the coming year — so the e world as a kind of halo, a shimmer of excitement, giving added luster to print.

That shift from dystopian image of libraries without print to utopian projection of revived and revitalized NF runs along the tracks of the CC. If the rollout of the CC is done well, by thoughtful school and public library systems, we are about to leap into a golden moment for NF. If, if, if — librarians are trained; teachers, librarians, and administrators collaborate; publishers innovate. The NF train is steaming into the station — but will we all get on board, little children, get on board, or will it roar past , noisy, annoying, and irrelevent — we’ll see. As I looked over the year’s posts I saw two other themes that I expect to be even more prominant next year: internationalism and current events. In an election year, we can be sure there will be endless news cycles that alert librarians can use as ways to draw attention to their NF collections. And, yesterday, China announced an ambitious space program, at least until 2016, including manned moon landings. While an article on India talked about its growing success in using solar technology for power. The world outside our borders will be very much with us — whether in the spinning of the Euro or the rise of Asia — and that gives all of us yet another opportunity to connect young people to books, sites, ideas, beyond their circle of social chat.

A last theme of the year was Skype and other ways that I, and other authors, are connecting directly with our readers. Yes — more, more, more. Lets see what we can all create in using the book as the beginning, not the end, of connection between reader and author.

So change, surprise, the press of the outside world, connection, opportunity, and the great question of the CC — a busy year. What will next year’s themes be? What do you think?