As a public librarian, I’m not sure I could ever know enough about the reading tastes and interests of my community. I remember one desperate moment where I put up a Bastille Day display, hoping books would stay there longer than 24 hours (I worked in a voracious library), only to overhear someone immediately explain, “Oh! A biography of Robespierre!” and remove the one title I was sure would linger, lonely, on our display table after everything else was gone.  

Nothing in our library’s circulation data hinted at the possibility that a French Revolution display would be consumed in 6 hours and most (maybe even all) of the people who checked out one of the books on that display hadn’t expected to be interested in the French Revolution when they walked into the library. They happened upon something that caught their eye while browsing.  

"Browsing" is such a mundane word for the glory of happenstance when you go looking for one thing and take home just the thing, which you weren’t even looking for at the time. 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 saw the library patron get excited about a biography. It’s not a surprise that we see NoveList Select-wide most of the top-ten titles, authors, and series are the obvious: The Midnight Library is a top title, James Patterson is the top author, and Jack Reacher and Diary of a Wimpy Kid are in a heated battle for #1 series position. 

But we also see interesting outliers. One library system noticed that Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez was in their top titles but didn’t have the copies or holds of the other top titles. I’ll leave it to some of the more data-savvy people to brainstorm why that would be the case. 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. Displays! Make this one both in-person and digital to get the biggest reach. A book like Invisible Women showing up in top viewed titles shows an interest in books on Society and Culture (search GN Society and Culture in NoveList to find more in that genre) as well as incisive, issue-oriented books written in an accessible writing style (search AP incisive AND AP issue-oriented AND AP accessible to find more books with those appeal terms). NoveList has you covered with read-alikes, but you can quickly and easily look for more books on data to fill out the display by searching SU data mining.  
  2. Staff education. Us heavy nonfiction readers are occasionally forgotten in the push for readers’ advisory and genre education. In NoveList Plus under Keeping Up, check out the Biography and Memoir (UI 441719) page, and 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 into your book clubs. Your solid fiction readers might be looking to read a good nonfiction title and not sure where to start. Invisible Women would be a great book for a general fiction book club. Need more ideas? We’ve got a Recommended Reads list with Book Club Best Bets for Nonfiction Fans (UI 445559), as well as 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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Jennifer Lohmann is the Director of Sales and Marketing at NoveList. She is currently listening to The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune.