This paper aims to problematise the basis of the use of non-fiction as an explanatory category in libraries that have mandates to deliver information to civil society users to initiate debate on its ongoing value.
A range of literature from the fields of information science, philosophy, literary studies and the sociology of knowledge was critically surveyed to uncover reasons for the use of the non-fiction concept when librarians are dealing with documentary knowledge. A process of thematisation of relevant material was then conducted using a methodology informed by historicist and hermeneutic-phenomenological approaches to social scientific inquiry.
The extreme simplicity of the concept of non-fiction masks a complex range of factors associated with common sense understanding of life and our conceptualisation of what constitutes knowledge in civil society information environments. By restricting the nature of questions associated with knowledge and documentary knowledge the non-fiction concept contributes to a far too narrow view of how these concepts interrelate.
Preliminary reasons are offered for why the non-fiction concept is problematic, and an alternative discursive formation is put forward which may enable more fruitful caretaking of documentary collections in school and public libraries.
This paper helps to open discussion among collection management theorists and practitioners regarding how the concept of documentary knowledge can be more usefully theorised so that it is better able to support the epistemic learning and socialisation goals of libraries characterised by their civil society setting.
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