Read the guest blog post from Jenny Hudson, Senior Collection Development Librarian at GOBI® Library Solutions from EBSCO, as she discusses how GOBI Library Solutions is helping libraries address the need for more diverse content in their collections.

While the discussion of diversity and inclusion on college campuses is by no means new, over the past few years it has become an ever-present issue. Academic libraries find themselves at the heart of this discussion and are taking greater care in thinking through and acting on the values of diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice through their practices and procedures. Libraries are tasked not only to offer a diverse selection of voices, but they must also offer representative materials that reflect the students and users walking in the library door. Being a collection development manager for GOBI Library Solutions has provided me a front-row seat to view the changing ways in which libraries are approaching their collections based on this need.

Book vendors have long played an important role in the collection development process of the academic library. Here are three ways GOBI Library Solutions is helping libraries find more diverse content and navigate their transition to a more interdisciplinary inspired approach.

Creating New Interdisciplinary Tags in GOBI.

The core of the GOBI Library Solutions service is based on profiling bibliographic and descriptive characteristics of academic titles, which is then used to feed a library’s approval plan, the predominant print book and e-book acquisition method for academic libraries. The approval plan relies on customized filtering of these characteristics to match the preferences of the library. To meet the needs of expanded diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice goals from libraries, we have worked to make sure we are properly tagging and classifying material, ensuring that aspects and relevant characteristics are identified and searchable. We have listened to libraries and developed multiple tags including Indigenous Studies, Poverty Studies, Border/Migration Studies, and Disability Studies to help round out a large collection of existing interdisciplinary identifiers, including Jewish Studies, Black Studies, LGBTQ+, and Multicultural Studies.

Furthermore, we have expanded the geographic areas we cover and enabled multiple geographic regions to be assigned to each book. We have also added new Review and Awards sources to cover more diverse topics. These include reviews from World Literature Today and Women's Review of Books and awards representing people and places all over the world.

Libraries are tasked not only to offer a diverse selection of voices, but they must also offer representative materials that reflect the students and users walking in the library door.

Building a More Diverse Publisher List.

GOBI Library Solutions has always partnered with libraries to make sure that we offer a broad set of potential publishers for our customers. Recently, we have worked with libraries large and small to find publishers that fall outside the traditional academic press model and had a strong focus on diversity. This expansion of our press list makes our overall coverage more representative and inclusive, which means that libraries see more diverse material on their approval plans and can find more titles in our system. It is a continued work in progress and something we encourage all our libraries to help us with.

We have also begun to work with smaller, local presses that publish original voices that may not have been covered before. Additionally, we have started paying attention to titles that have been traditionally overlooked (comic books, graphic novels, cookbooks, handicrafts, etc.) to try to meet the needs of libraries.

Helping Libraries Analyze Existing Collections.

Working to hone and improve our services to help libraries build better and more inclusive collections enables us to also evaluate and analyze existing collections. As diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice have become important to many libraries, we have used review processes to see where a plan may be missing coverage or inadvertently excluding important areas. In a recent example, a library asked us to help with their Film Collection, a collection of monographs focusing on Film and the Entertainment Industry. They were specifically interested in LGBTQ+ titles focused on certain geographic regions of the world. We looked at their purchase and holdings data and compared their coverage to the overall universe of Film titles based on specific geographic or interdisciplinary content. We were then able to identify holes in coverage and provide a list of titles to backfill the collection. We used this information to tweak their approval plans to make sure this material was not missed in the future.

Understanding what has been missed in the past is important for many libraries, as this information can also help in building a strategy for the future. We can use this information to analyze the success of an approval plan or collection policy and to create a process for acquiring or delivering diverse material on an ongoing basis. Once a process is in place, it is important to track and tweak as time passes, enabling an ongoing and consistent review and update to make sure that the program is working as intended.

What’s Next?

Using these methods, we have helped libraries to establish collections that cover all aspects of diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice, which in turn helps libraries better serve users and makes libraries more approachable for all. Earlier this year, I participated in an American Libraries webinar, The Importance of Being Inclusive: Diversity in Collection Development for Academic Libraries, along with three academic librarians as they discussed why diversity is important for libraries, and how the importance of diversity has changed the way librarians view their collections and collection development process. A focus on diversity, inclusion and social justice in collection development is ongoing, and GOBI Library Solutions is excited to be a part of that conversation and to help libraries provide the best, most representative collections for their students and users.