Years ago, as a User Services Librarian, I clocked most of my working hours at my library’s only service desk. In moments between helping patrons, I would scan in any books left discarded on tables or returned to us in the bins strategically placed at the end of rows of shelving. While this would occasionally help us discover a missing title, it also helped us track which books our users were browsing in the physical stacks. We could see the last scanned date in our ILS reports, alongside circulation and holds counts. If we noticed that certain subject areas were especially picked over, we knew to pay special attention to those areas of our collection. 

While it was great to have this level of insight into how our community browsed the physical stacks, we had no such luck within our online catalog. While we could see which titles were placed on hold, we lacked an understanding of the types of titles users were searching and browsing for.  

Browsing is a large part of the value of NoveList Select in a library catalog, but until the release of Reader Insights in the Select Analytics Dashboard, we weren’t able to see the browsing in the same way I could measure users thumbing through the stacks. It’s not a surprise that we see NoveList Select-wide most of the top-ten titles, authors, and series are the obvious: Spare is far and away the top title, Colleen Hoover has finally unseated James Patterson as the top author, and the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Series sit firmly in the #1 series position.  

But we also see interesting outliers. One library system consistently sees that many of their top titles were nonfiction, including such titles as Rebels at Sea and The Philosophy of Modern Song. If you’re looking for ideas of what to do when nonfiction sneaks into your top ten titles, I’ve got you covered with five easy next steps:  

1. Create a display. Make this one both in-person and digital to get the biggest reach. A book like The Philosophy of Modern Song showing up in top viewed titles might show an interest in the cultural impact of pop music (search GN arts and entertainment AND GN society and culture in NoveList to find similar books at that cross-roads) with a conversational writing style (search AP conversational for more). NoveList has you covered with read-alikes, but you can quickly and easily look for more books on pop music to fill out the display by searching DE Popular music.   

2. Staff education. We heavy nonfiction readers are occasionally forgotten in the push for readers’ advisory and genre education. In NoveList Plus under Genre Guides check out the Life Stories (Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir) for Adults (UI 436423) page. Encourage your staff to read some of our feature articles on nonfiction and peruse the Nonfiction Recommended Reads Lists to help your staff feel comfortable talking about everything nonfiction has to offer. A search for the popular genre GN Nonfiction that reads like fiction will help you find those nonfiction titles everyone is talking about.

3. Check your collection. There are some big nonfiction prizes like the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction. A quick search of Core Collections limited to Award Winners will let you pull a list to compare against your local collections. It’s a quick way to see if a recent nonfiction award winner got missed in purchasing or got weeded for condition and not reordered.   

4. Promote your book-recommendation emails. If your library subscribes to LibraryAware, then you’ve got some great resources for your nonfiction readers, including lists like Armchair Travel, Biography and Memoir, History and Current Events, and Nature and Science. Make sure your staff know about those lists, encourage people to sign up on social, and put a slider on your library’s homepage.   

5. Add some nonfiction to your book clubs. Your solid fiction readers might be looking to read a good nonfiction title and not sure where to start. Need more ideas? We’ve got a Recommended Reads list with Book Club Best Bets for Nonfiction Fans (UI 445559) or Nonfiction That Reads Like Fiction for Adults (UI 453103). We also offer plenty of articles with specific nonfiction recommendations for different types of readers, such as horror fans.  

Have NoveList Select and curious about interesting anomalies that might pop up in your community’s browsing data? You can request access to the Analytics Dashboard by emailing 

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Sam Stover is a Senior Product Manager at NoveList. He is currently reading Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer.