Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Show Me the Awesome--Diversity in Collection Development

Artwork by John LeMasney,

As part of the fantastic "30 Days of Self Promotion" blog tour going on this month (full archive), I'm going to write about something very near and dear to my heart: Diversity in Collection Development.

Why Does it Matter?

I don't care how homogeneous, remote, or just plain 'white' your community is--you should be thinking about diversity in your collections, AND in the books you present during storytime. One of the biggest parts of our mission as librarians is to provide access. Access to technology, to ideas, to education and, more broadly, access to the amazing world we live in. We provide windows into other lives, other ways of living. And we also have a responsibility to show kids how much the same life is--how much we all have in common. It's our responsibility to reflect the diverse world back to our library users.

Diversity in collection development is so much more than just books about Civil Rights, or "What it's like to live in X country." Those books are very very important. But if the only picture books we have that feature people of color are history books, historical fiction, or books about other countries we are doing a huge disservice to the people we serve. We're also contributing to the concept of 'otherness' that so many people of color live with every day. I want everyone to feel that they belong in my library. If we are building diverse collections, we need to seek out fantastic books that feature people of color and that aren't about race We need bedtime books, first day of school books, friendship books, loose tooth books and scared of the dark books that feature people of color. Those are the books that I work very hard to find and feature at my library.

It's not for me to speak about discrimination or prejudice, or to try and tell stories that don't belong to me. But what I can do is listen to those in the know, and support and promote authors of color,  and use my purchasing power to encourage publishers to embrace diversity as well. I want to be a diversity ally, and I am challenging you to be the same.

What do I actually do?

  • Read blogs that focus on diversity. A lot. Challenge my viewpoints as much as possible. Learn. Grow. This is the main thing. I do everything I can to make sure that I'm aware of what's out there, and then make a point to seek out those books.
  • When I'm looking through book catalogs and review publications I am always looking for books that can add diversity through my collection. I challenge myself to stop thinking, "That won't circulate here" or making assumptions about my users. I have an eagle eye watching for books about universal themes that feature people of color.
  • One easy way I keep tabs on my collections is to watch my 'new books' displays--are they reflective of a diverse world? How many of the total number on display are diverse? Who would feel welcome looking at this display? (Example below)
  • Watch my orders, and pay attention to book covers. I try to click through my book orders before I finish them and look at covers to get an overview of the overall diversity of each order.

Some things I read to learn:

American Indians in Children's Literature
CBC Diversity 
I'm Here, I'm Queer, Now What the Hell do I Read?
De Colores: La Raza Experience in Books for Children
Es Divertido Hablar Dos Idiomas!
Reading in Color
PaperTigers Blog
Diversity in YA

Awards and Lists:

Stonewall Award
Pura Belpre Award
Schneider FamilyAward
Coretta Scott King Award
South Asia Book Award
Rainbow Book List 

 What am I missing? I'm always looking for more!

On a random morning I took stock of my picture book display and found 8/14 titles on display were either 1. A true story about a person of color 2. Featured a person of color on the cover regardless of the story or 3. portrayed a folk or fairy tale from a non-European culture. Most of the time I don't take a photo, just count how many books on the display are diverse, then count how many books are on display total. I aim for about 50% and am pleased to report that that is an easy benchmark to hit when you pay attention to diversity!


  1. Great post! Another award to watch is from the American Indian Library Association:

  2. I don't do much with picture books, but I do try to read culturally diverse books for middle grade. Most Wednesdays on my blog, I have a book that features characters who are not all Caucasian.


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