Friday, April 19, 2013

The Tebow Problem: The Hot and Cold Nature of the Biography Section

by: Travis Jonker

Biography section – why are you so vexing?

I think my frustration can be nicely summed up in one image:

I like to call it “The Tebow Problem”. Has there ever been a biography subject that has gone from must-purchase to weeding candidate more quickly? Unless someone did a bio on Michael Phelp’s Mom, I’d hazard to say no. If your situation is similar to mine, you were just getting a Tim Tebow book on the shelves as the demand was vanishing. And now it sits¹. My Tebow problem hints at a bigger biography section issue – I want to stock the section with research staples of course, but also want students to visit without being sent there by a teacher.

Ay, there’s the rub.

Kids are interested in reading about famous figures today, but many of the in-demand titles are about pop stars, actors, and actresses who quickly fall in and out of favor – much more quickly than your standard fiction or nonfiction title.

What I’m saying is, it’s difficult to invest in books about people when popularity heats up and cools off at the drop of a hat. So do I ignore the trends and focus on the past? That seems like a path to biography section cricketsville.

My current approach is this: selectively purchase current bios that are in high demand, keep an eye out for standout stuff on historical figures, and supplement it all with a subscription to an online encyclopedia. We’ve been happy with Worldbook, but there are others that do a fine job. This way information on historical figures and current stars is easy to find.

I don’t know if I’ll ever truly figure you out, bio section, but I’ll keep trying. Do you have a secret recipe for bio section happiness?

¹As for Tim Tebow books, I envision them suffering the same fate as the infamous E.T. game for the Atari.

There are millions of the suckers lying in a New Mexico landfill as we speak.

(Image: E.T.: 2600 by nickstone333

from: School Library Journal

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