Are you interested in ensuring your youth literature collection is inclusive and representative, but you don’t know where to start? Many libraries have conducted diversity audits. They analyze their entire collection to gather data on how many books they have representing various cultures and diverse experiences. Completing a diversity audit of your whole collection can be a daunting task, but there are other intentional and active ways to begin looking at your collection. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Audit your day-to-day use and promotion of materials.
The literature we select for storytimes, book talks, readers’ advisory, and book displays have a major impact on what our patrons see and check out. Examine the titles you promote daily. What diverse groups are represented? What experiences are missing? Make it a habit to ask yourself who you are choosing to represent and who you have left out. This practice will help you to start intentionally incorporating the diverse titles you already have available in your collection.
2. Focus on highlighting both culturally specific titles and titles featuring causal diversity.
It is important for youth to continually see themselves and others represented in literature. While celebrating heritages and honoring the history of various cultures helps to highlight culturally specific experiences, it is also important to highlight diverse characters in casual everyday settings. When choosing titles to recommend or display, be sure to balance the types of diverse titles you pull. Youth need to see diversity in a variety of genres, topics, and settings.
3. Analyze a small recently used portion of your collection.
Create a checklist of various diverse indicators and use it to review a small portion of your youth collection like the past year of circulating materials or a popular section like the graphic novels. How many of those books feature experiences from your checklist? Are there gaps in representation? Conducting a small use analysis in this way can help you to discover what kinds of experiences you may need to promote or purchase more of for your patrons. It is a myth that diverse books aren’t of interest to readers outside of the experience. A good book has universal appeal, so use this smaller analysis to empower you to find diverse read-alikes that will entice your readers.
4. Involve your community in auditing the collection.
Involving your community in conversations and activities around diversity in youth literature can help them to not only learn more about the importance of representation but also actively engage and invest them in building a more inclusive youth collection. Start having conversations with youth advisory boards, families, and youth that regularly come to storytimes or events, and patrons who frequently visit and are enthusiastic about the happenings of your library. One way to get them involved is to have them conduct small audits using a quick checklist of criteria while they browse a certain section of the collection of their choosing. While this activity won’t give you data on a large scale, it can be useful in showing you what diversity your patrons are seeing in the areas of their interest.
5. Want to go bigger? Host a one-day diversity audit event inviting interested patrons to learn more about inclusion and assigning them sections of the collection to analyze.
The benefits of involving community are two-fold; you will continue to learn more about areas of your collection, and your community may begin to seek out and ask for more representation in their own reading choices.
The Diversity Resources page in NoveList Plus is a great place to start in finding more tips and strategies for building diverse and inclusive collections.
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Jewel Davis is an Education Librarian in the Instructional Materials Center at Appalachian State University. She is currently reading Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter.