Fiction vs. Nonfiction - Confusion - Mothering Forums

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Old 08-30-2010, 05:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm completely embarrassed to be asking this question. I'm a writer by profession for Pete's sake! DS & I started talking about literature today. We read a book called Bored Bella Learns About Fiction and Nonfiction. So, the gist is that Bella's class goes to the library, and they learn about how to tell if a book is fiction or nonfiction...great detail about how sometimes something has facts in it, but the story and characters are made up. That's fiction.

Lovely, except...our library has housed the Bored Bella book in the nonfiction section! I noticed because in the book, the librarian talks about how to use the spine to tell, and I flipped to it saying "see, this is fiction, so...wait a minute. Why is this listed as nonfiction?" I noticed this with a book DD checked out last weekend. It was a dentist ABC book, so the letters all stand for dentist-related items. It was in the nonfiction section. ??? Yet, the jungle ABC book is in fiction.

Am I confused here, or is there a confused children's librarian at our library?

It's us: DH , DS ; DD ; and me . Also there's the . And the 3 . I . Oh, and .
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Old 08-30-2010, 05:41 PM
 
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Confused librarian! A made-up story teaching something factual is still fiction. How ironic that particular book was marked incorrectly haha.

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Old 08-30-2010, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks! I was really starting to doubt myself here! Should I point it out? (And, yes, I find it hilarious that this book in particular is shelved wrong.)

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Old 08-30-2010, 05:54 PM
 
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I'm not sure--they might appreciate it or they might just say "yeah, okay" and throw it back on the shelf. Guess it wouldn't hurt!

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Old 08-30-2010, 05:58 PM
 
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I know this is weird, but sometimes they put children's fiction which is for teaching a skill in the non-fiction section, such as a book for learning the alphabet or counting skills. Maybe even a fiction book about going back in time when the purpose is to teach about dinosaurs, or flying into space to learn about astronomy.
I can guarantee biblical stories are in the non-fiction, but that is another topic.
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Old 08-30-2010, 06:00 PM
 
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I know this is weird, but sometimes they put children's fiction which is for teaching a skill in the non-fiction section, such as a book for learning the alphabet or counting skills. Maybe even a fiction book about going back in time when the purpose is to teach about dinosaurs, or flying into space to learn about astronomy.
I can guarantee biblical stories are in the non-fiction, but that is another topic.
Yeah, I've noticed this too. There is a section about bullying in the nonfiction area, and most of the books in it are fiction. I guess I can see why they do it (to make the books easier to find if you're looking for a specific topic), but it's still wrong!

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Old 08-30-2010, 06:03 PM
 
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I can guarantee biblical stories are in the non-fiction, but that is another topic.
ha!

True. When you get down to it, most things are fiction, because reality is so subjective. That would give Bored Bella a headache!

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Old 08-30-2010, 06:13 PM
 
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But the Dewey decimal system has certain categories (nonfiction) for things like art, sign language, study skills, etc and this fits that idea. And there are some "all about" books that are written with a character as narrator, but it is still an "all about" book. So a book with a cute character introducing Spanish words or sign language or how to use the library still fits that nonfiction category. I totally see how that fits the nonfiction section. It's not really about the character or the fictional elements. The point of it is to introduce the learning skills. To me that is not fiction.

But our library sometimes puzzles me as well. I looked up "Ancient China" and found non-fiction travel books, fables/tales in the 371. section, and then books in the fiction section. Some in the fiction section were based on fables, and some were in the non-fiction section but seemed to be of informational/story with a character.
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Old 08-30-2010, 06:54 PM
 
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It's pretty particular from a writing standpoint. If I were to write a memoir about, say, one time when I drove my car to the store to buy bread, and altered it slightly to say I bought bread and butter (even if everything else is exactly what happened), then that would be fiction, based on a true story.

Apparently it's different from a library standpoint. There ought to be a "fiction about facts" section or something.

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Old 08-30-2010, 07:06 PM
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There is SOOOOO much more to this than what meets the eye. And don't bother pointing it out to the librarian. Books are not catalogued through your local library. They sometimes adjust things for ease of use, etc. However, in the example you gave, the POINT of the book is to teach nonfiction vs fiction. It was done in a story format, but since the purpose is to teach a concept, it is housed in nonfiction. Now, the Magic Tree House books (while containing many facts) has a purpose to entertain and tell a story, rather than specifically educate someone about a topic. Therefore it is fiction.

And, yes, folk/fairy tales are shelved in the non-fiction because of the historical significance of particular cultures with them. Plays, poetry, etc are also in the non-fiction because of being "literature". Mind you, this is all with the Dewey system. It is easier to use for small to medium libraries usually than the Library of Congress system, and (to me) is better at clumping like items together. The LC system is one giant system that has room for fiction and non-fiction by using a combination of letters and numbers. However, there are usually more than one spot for each topic depending on the point of view of the book. This can be helpful in certain settings, but I found it annoying in a community library. Most community libraries that do us LC will still make a judgement call and pull out fiction to shelve together sorted by author's last name.

Oh how I hated the required cataloging classes to become a librarian.

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Old 08-30-2010, 07:08 PM
 
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This would've never crossed my mind but just today I was looking in the non-fiction section for books about cars for my son & there was one called "Silly Cars" & it was all these made up, cartoony looking vehicles. Hmmm. I honestly didn't read any of it (just peeked at the inside) but I don't think it was teaching anything about cars. I'm tempted to ask our librarians about it now!

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Old 08-30-2010, 07:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Mind you, this is all with the Dewey system. It is easier to use for small to medium libraries usually than the Library of Congress system, and (to me) is better at clumping like items together. The LC system is one giant system that has room for fiction and non-fiction by using a combination of letters and numbers.
I've lived in 2 larger cities that use the LC system as did the university where I did my graduate work. I'm not as familiar with Dewey, though I know that many people find it easier. I'm not sure I do, to be honest.

I suppose my issue with this is that my son asked recently (and I posted somewhere else on a thread here) about the Jonas Brothers, and we went in circles with the idea that the Jonas Brothers is a real band, but their show is fiction. Then here's this book that clearly is fictitious in that there's no Bored Bella, and she and her class aren't actually headed to the library. Yet, it's categorized as non-fiction.

I did consider asking the librarians, but I don't think any of them have MLS degrees. They're mostly just people who applied for the jobs, and they've never known the answers to my questions about book suggestions or anything.

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Old 08-31-2010, 12:02 AM
 
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Well, I have a Library and Information Technology diploma and did some work in children's libraries, and I would have put it in non-fiction. That is where it will be the most useful, which is really the purpose of classification schemes. I doubt anyone will read it because they want a good story - they will read it to teach their kids about the topic.

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Old 08-31-2010, 03:28 AM
 
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as a children's librarian, allow me to say that i put it where i think it is best suited and will get the most glances. so as someone else stated, it may be shelved somewhere in nonfiction under the subject matter the deemed it to best fit into.

a classic example of the reverse is my young adult how to draw manga books. those would fall in the 741s, however, i keep them with the young adult manga fiction titles because i know they are 100 times more likely to get picked up there. hope this helps!

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Old 08-31-2010, 09:20 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, after posting this question, I did a good bit of reading about various classification systems, so it's been enlightening. I suppose it seems to me that there should be some sort of middle ground for children's books that have fictitious ways to teach nonfiction topics.

A couple of interesting notes -

I recall a story from college about a librarian at our university who absolutely hated Virginia Woolf's Orlando because it's made to seem like a biography. Apparently at some point in her education, she'd had a question about it, had identified the book as nonfiction, and been embarrassed by the mistake. That isn't particularly germane to the topic of intentional shelving, but it runs along the same lines, I suppose.

The second is that when we lived in Cincinnati, the librarians pulled out books (for the year, not for February) about, by, and with characters who were African American. They were the entire theme unto themselves, which I always thought was an uncomfortable decision, at best. "Here's fiction. Here's fiction for black people." I asked, and one of the librarians said it was more popular that way so people who wanted to read it didn't have to "look through all of those other shelves," but it seems to be Toni Morrison just needs to go with everyone else.

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Old 08-31-2010, 10:44 AM
 
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I recall a story from college about a librarian at our university who absolutely hated Virginia Woolf's Orlando because it's made to seem like a biography. Apparently at some point in her education, she'd had a question about it, had identified the book as nonfiction, and been embarrassed by the mistake. That isn't particularly germane to the topic of intentional shelving, but it runs along the same lines, I suppose.
When I was about twelve, I read the companion book for the series "Yes Minister" without realizing it was fiction. It was in diary form. It was very embarrassing when I mentioned it in a class to prove a point!

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Old 08-31-2010, 05:13 PM
 
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Nonfiction picture books for young kids commonly have some sort of frame story or (weak) plot, or fictional characters who are discovering/learning about the information. It's to help kids relate to the topic. The primary purpose of the book is still informative/factual, so the book is still nonfiction.

Magic School Bus books are a good example. Yes, Ms. Frizzle is a fictional character. But kids don't read the books because they're looking for character development and gripping plots, they read the books because they want to know about outer space or whatever.

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Old 08-31-2010, 07:01 PM
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I always hated that the Little House books were considered fiction because as a kid, I always thought of them as her memoirs.

But, I guess as long as I can find what I want, when I want it--then it works.

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Old 08-31-2010, 07:03 PM
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I've lived in 2 larger cities that use the LC system as did the university where I did my graduate work. I'm not as familiar with Dewey, though I know that many people find it easier. I'm not sure I do, to be honest.
Yeah, my bias is probably because I grew up with dewey and had many classifications memorized. When I started working in the Boston Public Library it was so frustrating because I had to actually look things up! But, they did pull the fiction out rather than use the LC number for it.

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Old 09-02-2010, 05:23 PM
 
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It occurred to me yesterday that there are adult books that use the same technique, like The Wealthy Barber. It's normally shelved with financial planning type books, but it has a fictional story to present the information.

 I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt.
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