Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: The How To (Part 2)

diversityaudt1

So yesterday I began telling you about doing my diversity audit. I began in a place that many people wouldn’t suspect, by doing a local community needs and assessment evaluation. I thought if I wanted to understand why I was building a diverse/inclusive collection, I also wanted to understand who I was doing it for. Also, this was part of my process on researching target goals. The question I asked myself is this: what does an inclusive YA collection look like? And to do that I thought I needed to better understand what my local community and the world at large actually looks like. No guessing, no anecdotes, but facts.

Slide10

After looking at my local community demographics, I then researched what the U.S. population looks like, keeping in mind that U.S. Census data comes out every ten years and involves a lot of margin for error because respondents must use per-detetermined categories to respond and many people identify in more than one way. (Note: please see uploaded outline below for a more complete look at stats and diversity categories to investigate.)

2010 census data

Serving Teens in Libraries Infographic

diversityaudditpic4

Then I dived deep into what diversity in children’s publishing looks like (spoiler alert: it’s not good). I used resources like the Lee and Low Diversity Baseline Survey to get a better understanding of what diversity in children’s publishing looks like. A realistic diversity goal has to include an understanding of what is being published. We can’t buy diverse titles that don’t exist, which is why we must continue to ask the publishing world to work towards better inclusion at all levels of publishing.

Childrens Books Infographic 18 24 V3

“This year, the number jumped to 28% . . . ” – http://blog.leeandlow.com/2017/03/30/the-diversity-gap-in-childrens-book-publishing-2017/

Checklist: 8 Steps to Creating a Diverse Book Collection | Lee & Low

Slide12

Slide14

Another worksheet example can be found here: http://sfpsmom.com/black-history-month-12-diversify-bookshelves/

With a better understanding of what the world looks like and some real investigation into my own personal biases and privilege (which is an ongoing process), I then began looking at my collection in depth. This was a painstaking process that involved a lot of research. I researched each title and author in my collection to the extent that was reasonably possible. Reasonably meaning given an appropriate use of my time, skills, and what information is available. For example, not all authors are publicly out and they deserve to make that decision for themselves, but it can affect a count of Own Voices GLBTQAI+ titles. Please note: you can make your headings and count whatever it is you wish to audit.

Slide15

My excel worksheet, created by importing a shelf list, looks like this

At one point my fellow TLTer Robin Willis came out for a week long visit and we went title by title through my shelf list discussing whether or not a title had a main or supporting character that was something other than white, male, cisgender. We had a lot of quality discussions about individual titles, authors and the idea of diversity and inclusion as a whole. And yes, public librarians do indeed end up taking weird vacations, so thank you Robin for taking your time to come spend with me and help me with this project.

robinmakerspacebag

Slide16

After doing the inventory several times and determining that I had the best knowledge that I could have, I then went and did the math that told me which percentage of my collection was diverse, Own Voices, GLBTQAI+ or featured a teen with a disability. I assumed I was doing a good job of building diverse, inclusive collections. It “felt” like I was doing a good job. I was trying to do a good job. Spoiler alert: I was not. Even when I was being intentional in building inclusive collections, I was not doing as well as I thought I was. For example, the percentage of titles featuring a teen with a disability were dismal at only 2.2%. However, after some targeted ordering, my GLBTQAI+ percentage went from around 3% up to 6.5%. This is part of why this type of collection audit is informative: I thought I was doing a good job of buying diverse titles, but an audit revealed that I wasn’t doing as good of a job as I thought I was and helped me make more informed and purposeful purchasing decisions. I thought I was doing a good job, I learned that I wasn’t, now I am doing better and have the data to back that statement up.

Slide18

As a tangential note, I will also admit that this in depth collection analysis has also led me on a quest to investigate subject headings in our catalog. For example, we had books with the heading of transvestite, transsexual and transgender, and since transgender is the term that teen readers will be most familiar with and is the currently preferred term, we added a subject heading of transgender (transgender people – fiction) to all titles. Similarly, we looked at titles like Tash Hearts Tolstoy to make sure that teens looking for asexual representation could find that title using our card catalog without having to ask an adult. Teens looking for GLBTQAI+ materials in particular don’t always want or feel comfortable asking an adult for help so we are working on making these titles accessible in multiple ways for teens who want to read but don’t necessarily want to ask for help in locating titles.

Slide20

This work is ongoing for me. As I mentioned above, it helps inform my monthly book ordering. Now when I do a book order, I do a sort of mini audit of each book order to make sure that I am doing the work of building an inclusive collection each and every order. I will also do occasional targeted audits, like this summer when I went through each and every letter of the GLBTQAI+ umbrella and made sure I had quality titles that represented each letter. A yearly or every few years audit combined with monthly book order audits and targeted audits makes my collection development more intentional. It’s not enough to think I’m doing the work, I now do the work. And having concrete facts and figures in front of me helps me to stop assuming while confronting my purchasing biases head on. And since I just took over this collection 3 years ago (new library), it has helped me better know and understand this collection as well as what is offered, making for some amazing RA to be honest. It also helped me fill in title holes and re-order missing or lost books that I think every collection should have.

The benefits of doing a diversity collection audit are plentiful and I highly recommend it, with a few caveats. First, it’s important that we remember that not all representation is good representation. There are a lot of tropes, stereotypes, and controversial titles out there that you should be aware of. You’ll also want to take the time to make yourself more familiar with Own Voices authors and titles. Remember that even when we talk about diversity, we should have diverse titles within that diverse representation. For example, not all GLBTQAI+ titles should be coming out stories, and not all coming out stories are the same. And, finally, we should remember and value the importance of intersectionality: most people identify as more than one thing, and that should be represented in our literature as well. For example, a black woman may identify as having a disability and being bisexual, because we are all complex human beings who are more than one thing and all more than our labels. Those stories deserve to be told and read.

With all that said, here is an in depth outline of this project: Diversity Audit Outline 2017 with Sources

Complete YA Collection Diversity Audit Series

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Understanding Your Local Community (Part 1)

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: The How To (Part 2)

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Resources and Sources (Part 3)

Edited to Add: Someone asked about measuring intersectionality. You could simply add a column heading for intersectionality and any book that has more than one tally mark in a column would also have a tally mark for intersectionality. Then you would do the math and have an idea of how many intersectional titles are in your collection.

Also, after you do your original collection audit, you can then just do an audit of all the titles added since the date of your last audit and combine the information. If you do book order audits, that information could also be added to your original audit to keep your figures current.

Sunday Reflections: That’s Me in the Corner, Losing My Confidence (as a Reviewer)

darkenergyI like Science Fiction. Like, a lot.

I especially like Science Fiction that has alien invasions. Remember the moment in Independence Day when Will Smith walks out of the house to get the paper and he looks to the left, then he looks to the right, and then he finally looks up and realizes that a giant spaceship is hanging right there over his head? I love that moment.

In the past few years, Science Fiction has been saturated with dystopian and post apocalyptic novels. Don’t get me wrong, I like those too. But I eat up every alien invasion I can get my hands on.

Which brings me to Dark Energy by Robison Wells. Which I really loved. I think.

It’s complicated.

Dark Energy takes place almost immediately after alien invasion has occurred. It’s what happens after Will Smith and the rest of the world looks up and realizes that yes, aliens exist and they are most definitely here. In this case we know this because they have just crash landed. They may be here, but they don’t seem to be very good drivers.

Alice’s father is the head of a special unit that is responsible for investigating what’s happening. So they pack up and move to the Midwest where Alice is stuck in a boarding school with strangers while the world tries to figure out who these visitors are and what they want.

As far as alien invasions go, this is a very entertaining one. Wells puts some very interesting twists on the story. Our original invaders may not be who we think they are. They may not be the only invaders. There are twists, turns, and action packed road trips that take your typical alien invasion story to the next level. Add that to a strong, interesting, and incredibly competent female main character who gets to be a type of hero in her own story and I’m sold.

But . . .

(Isn’t there always a but . . . ?)

Alice is part Native American. This is referenced often. In fact, at one point she flees for safety to a reservation where her grandmother lives. And this is where things get complicated for me as a reviewer.

You are probably aware that earlier this month, author J. K. Rowling began releasing a variety of information about the wizarding world in North America. You are probably also aware that some of this information involves stories about Native Americans. And you are also probably aware that this didn’t go well for her. There were strong reactions about cultural appropriation and misrepresentation, which you can read about here, which were followed in the online community by conversations about how we talk about book criticism/critiques online to the author and to one another.

For me, it was a very interesting discussion. You see, when I read Dark Energy by Robison Wells I then reached out to one of my fellow TLTers. “I really liked this book,” I said, “but I’m kind of scared to review it because I don’t know what to make of the Native American content. It feels like he is being very respectful, but what if I’m wrong?”

And it does. It feels like Robison Wells has been very respectful of Native Americans in this book. He references the history of Native Americans in ways that draw meaningful and appropriate parallels to what is happening in the book; it was, in my opinion, such a subtle but effective way to remind readers that the American people did horrible things to Native Americans under the guise of being the more knowledgeable and helpful people group. And he includes an afterwards where he discusses his own history, research and beta reading process. In fact, he mentions how those he consulted asked him to take out parts of a sacred ceremony that he includes, dialing it back until it was at a place that those readers were comfortable with. He obviously tries very hard to get it right.

But does he?

I don’t know. Because I have no point of reference to make that observation. I am not Native American. This is not my culture. These are not my stories to share and I have no right to say if he gets it right.

So what do I, as a white reviewer, do? This is a question I have been wrestling with. And I wrestled with even more when another fellow TLTer texted me the other day and said, “I read this book that has a mixed race mc with a disability and I think the author does a good job, but I’m kind of afraid to review it. What if I missed something?”

What if I missed something?

That’s the question I have been wrestling with as a reader and a reviewer.

When I review, I think about several things.

1.) Will my teens want to read this book? I’m spending other people’s money and I want to make sure that I am buying books that my teens want to read. Books that just sit on the shelf are of no value to me because if my circulation goes down, then so does my budget. I believe in serving teens, which requires money, so I work hard to build collections that circulate. I want teens to read so I tend to buy the books they want.

2.) Do my teens need to read this book? Not all books have to be world opening and have teachable moments, I buy plenty of fun, entertaining reads. But I also want to make sure my collection is peppered with books that stir the soul, make readers think, and can possibly change their world view. Sometimes you read a book and when you are done you think, everyone needs to read this book.

3.) Will reading this book harm my teens? This is something newer I have been thinking about. And I’m not talking here about sex, drugs and violence. I’m talking about representation. I’m talking, more specifically, about bad representation. I’m talking about fat shaming, slut shaming, harmful stereotypes, and blatant misrepresentation that reinforces cultural norms that make life difficult or dangerous for my teens. This is where a lot of the conversation lately has been online in the kid/ya lit world.

And as a librarian, this is where it gets tricky. You see, librarianship is in many ways supposed to be a neutral profession. I am not supposed to impose my personal views or opinions on others. But what does this mean when we come across fiction titles that have bad or even outright harmful representation? THIS is I think the question that many of us in youth librarianship are wrestling with. Because it puts two of our professional values in direct conflict with one another: serving teens, which I believe means valuing and advocating for them, and professional neutrality. It’s even more complicated by the fact that librarianship is still a predominately white, female profession. I, as a reader, a reviewer and a librarian, sometimes miss things.

killtheboybandAnd teens can miss even more. So now let’s discuss Kill the Boy Band, shall we? We shall.

Kill the Boy Band is a recent release in which a group of girls kidnap a boy that is the member of a popular boy band, think One Direction. It is billed as a fun, darkly humorous read. And one of my teen reviewers agreed very much with this billing. She loved the book. So I was surprised when I started hearing people online complain about fat shaming in this book. My teen reviewer, age 13, never mentioned this at all. And to be fair, 13 is young, she is not yet a sophisticated reader and she doesn’t have a lot of life experience or frame of reference to pick apart all the subtle nuances of a book. Heck, a lot of adult readers don’t.

But this very different reading of the same work got me thinking even more about reading, reviewing and representation. It got me thinking even more about teen readers. My teen reviewer read and loved this book and didn’t blink once at this content that many adults found to be not just problematic, but dangerous. And as a former (?) anorexic, I take body image representation very seriously. I live in fear of my daughters developing the same body image issues that I have struggled with my entire life. And I know that they take in subtle digs every day that help build this often subconscious idea that how you look – especially as a woman – matters more than anything. It really bothered me as someone who cares about teens that my teen reviewer didn’t seem to bat an eye at what others considered to be such problematic content. So much so that out of curiosity, I asked an older teen reviewer to review the book as well to see what she says and her review will go up tomorrow.

This is not a post where I come to you with answers. I have none. This is a post where I come to you discussing the many ways in which I am wrestling with what it means to be a teen librarian in a diverse world that is having important discussions about representation in YA literature and how it impacts readers. I don’t even have a good way to wrap this post up. This is stream of consciousness. It’s complicated. It’s messy. It’s real life.

I’m listening.

I’m wrestling.

I’m reading.

I’m thinking.

I’m talking.

And I hope at the end of the day, I am mostly getting it right. For my teens.

Because at the end of the day, to me, that’s what matters. The teens that I serve. And the ones I’m raising.

PS: Props to REM for the great post title inspiration. And a great song.

TV Shows We Love: Switched at Birth (with book recommendations) by Carli Spina

As soon as I found out that Teen Librarian Toolbox was going to have a series of posts on favorite TV shows, I knew I wanted to write about Switched at Birth. Currently in its third season on ABC Family, the show centers around two families who discover that their daughters were inadvertently switched by the hospital when they were born. One of the daughters, Daphne, lost her hearing as a toddler due to bacterial meningitis. As the show opens, she has been attending a school for the Deaf for years, meaning that many of the characters in the show are Deaf or hard of hearing and communicate primarily or entirely via American Sign Language (ASL). The other characters in the show are a mix of Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing. During the first season, one of the major plot points revolves around Daphne’s newly found biological family learning ASL to better communicate with her as they get to know each other as a family. Despite being Deaf, Daphne is never defined solely by this aspect of her character. She is a stellar athlete and a good cook, both of which are just as central to her character as is her deafness. 

Over the course of its three seasons, the show has never shied away from topics relating to deafness and Deaf culture, tackling topics such as the choice of one character to get cochlear implants, the difficulty some family members have with learning and using ASL, and the activism of the students at the fictional Carlton School for the Deaf when the school is threatened with closure. But, while the show deals with these topics, it doesn’t treat its Deaf characters differently than the hearing characters. Instead, the show highlights how its Deaf characters face the same plethora of issues that other teens in the show face related to relationships, career plans and extracurricular activities.

The show has also featured characters with disabilities, including a current love interest for Daphne who uses a wheelchair due to a sports injury. Switched at Birth admittedly has elements of soap opera to it, but I always find the stories entertaining and I love the fact that the show features actors who are Deaf, hard of hearing or have disabilities to play these roles, including Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin, who has a recurring role on the show. Beyond all of these characters, 

Switched at Birth is a show about family and how family relationships work when everyone is pulled by their different interests. Bay, the girl with whom Daphne was switched, is a talented artist who struggles to fit in at her preppy high school. Her brother, Toby, is a musician, who plays in a band with Emmet, a boy from Carlton. Even both sets of parents get interesting storylines, which is not always the case in dramas focused on teens. Whether you have been looking for a show that features Deaf characters in a central role or you are just interested in finding a fun new teenage drama that offers a lot of diversity in its cast, Switched at Birth is a great show that has a lot to offer.

If you enjoy Switched at Birth, you might want to try these young adult books:

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk: This mystery follows Will Halpin as he moves from a school for the Deaf to another public school where he must try to keep up with his classes by reading lips while trying to find his place in the social order. When a classmate dies, he joins together with one of his classmates to try to solve his murder. Readers will see similarities to Daphne’s interactions with students at her siblings’ preppy private school and will appreciate Will’s references to the politics at his old school for the Deaf.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick: In this Schneider Family Book Award winner, Selznick tells the story of two Deaf characters. One is a boy living in Minnesota in 1977 and the other is a young girl in New Jersey in 1927. The boy’s story is told through words and the girl’s is told through drawings. The two stories are interspersed throughout the book, building to a point where they come together. This is a powerful book about the importance of family and love. For readers interested in learning more, the book also offers suggestions for further reading.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John: Fans of Toby and Emmet’s band in Switched at Birth will want to check out this Schneider Family Book Award winner, which follows Piper as she manages a local band in an attempt to save money for college. Because Piper is Deaf, the book includes discussions of lip reading, sign language and also her parents’ decision to get cochlear implants for her younger sister. But, beyond these topics, it is also a fun and funny book about rock music and working with a band.

Of Sound Mind by Jean Ferris: As the only hearing person in his family, Theo is forced into the role of interpreter for his parents and his brother. His mother in particular expects him to always be available to help her to negotiate the world and to handle all of the transactions related to her high power art career. While he has held this role for many years, his impending graduation from high school and his desire to leave home for college lead to resentments and frustrations that he is unwilling and unable to express to his parents. The story is powerful and relatable for anyone who has ever felt conflicted about their place in their family.

Wait For Me by An Na: In this book from An Na, Mina is a high school senior who is caught in a web of lies that she has created in an attempt to appease her demanding mother. She is forced into the role of perfect daughter, struggling for straight As, working at her family’s dry cleaner, and helping out with her hearing-impaired sister. The book captures the pressures that teenagers can feel while trying to decide whether to strive for the dreams of their family or to instead break free to follow their own passions.

Carli Spina is a librarian with an interest in young adult literature and Switched at Birth is definitely a TV show she loves. Find her on Twitter (@CarliSpina) for more on young adult literature and librarianship. 


12 Blogs of Christmas: Diversity in YA

It’s time to kick off our 3rd annual 12 Blogs of Christmas.  Here we share with you some of our favorite blogs to discuss MG and YA lit, be inspired by new craft ideas, or just learn more about teen issues and culture.

 
di·ver·si·ty

diˈvərsitē,dī-/

noun
noun: diversity
1. The state of being diverse; variety
from merriam-webster dictionary

 

Blog #1

  

From the Blog’s About Page:
 
Diversity in YA was founded in 2011 by YA authors Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo as a website and book tour. While the tour is over, we’ve revived the website as a tumblr! We celebrate young adult books about all kinds of diversity, from race to sexual orientation to gender identity and disability. We hope you’ll enjoy celebrating them with us.

Why I Love It:
 
Technically, this is a blog via Tumblr. But it is chock full of in depth discussions, title recommendations, and useful statistics.  If you care about diversity in YA lit, this is a resource you need to be reading everyday.  If you don’t care about diversity in YA lit, then I hope you are not a ya librarian because all YA librarians need to care about this topic.  We live in a diverse world, our teens deserve – and need – to see themselves authentically reflected in the books that they read.  And though my personal rallying cry is that we need to expand our definition of diversity to include things like class differences, spiritual lives and belief practices, and moving beyond normative gender stereotypes, we definitely need to be thinking about and discussing race and sexuality in our ya lit.  Diversity in YA is a great place to be doing this.

Some of my favorite posts include:
Diversity in ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults
Gay in YA (graphic via Epic Reads)
Link: 5 YA Titles that Feature Characters with Asperger’s or Autism
Beyond Diversity 101: On Bisexual Characters and YA Literature
Diversity in Secrets (guest post by Amy Reed)

Flashback TLT Posts

Diversity Discussions on TLT

Racial Stereotyping in YA Literature
Race Reflections, Take II
Building Bridges to Literacy for African American Male Youth Summit recap, part 1
Friday Reflections: Talking with Hispanic/Latino Teens about YA Lit


Gender Issues on TLT
I’m Just a Girl? Gender issues in YA Lit
Girls Against Girls
Teach Me How to Live: talking with guys about ya lit with Eric Devine
Let’s Hear It for the Boys: Boys and body image
Who Will Save You? Boundaries, Rescue and the Role of Adults in the Lives of Teens
The Curious Case of the Gender Based Assignment

GLBTQ Discussions on TLT
You want to put WHAT in my YA?
Taking a Stand for What You Believe In
Annie on My Mind and Banned Books Week on My Calendar
Queer (a book review)
Top 10: For Annie and Liza (Annie on My Mind)

Take 5: Tumblrs that Rock

I am obsessed with Tumblr.  Blame Robin.  Anyhow, as I see it, Tumblr (outside of Twitter, of course) is so easy to use and I love, love, love the way it handles graphics (which is where its bread and butter is).  So now I am all Tumblr obsessed.  Here are 5 Tumblrs to follow if you are new to the tumble.  If you are not new, share your favorites with me in the comments.  Feed my obsession.

And yes, for the record, every time I am on Tumblr I do in fact sing this song in my head . . .

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwb9-OlQimc]

Diversity in YA

Diversity in YA was originally founded as a blog in 2011 by Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo.  They moved to Tumblr in 2013.  Here, they talk about Diversity in YA, hence the title.  It is a great resource not only highlighting titles, but giving real strong evidence that shows how little diversity there currently is.

Teenager Posts

Teenager Posts takes a standard format – a color block with a simple text statement, similar to Bookfessions – and allows teens to express themselves.  Often sad, sometimes witty, sometimes full of cusswords, this is a way for teens 

YA Book Quotes

 
Exactly what it sounds like – quotes from YA books. Great for reblogging and sharing.

Fishing Boat Proceeds, aka John Green’s Tumblr

John Green is kind of king of the Internet in Geek World, and Tumblr is no different.  It’s obviously heavy on self-promotion, especially with TFIOS movie being filmed, but he is usually the first to take to the Internet and speak up about things with heartfelt intelligence.

Looking for things to make and do?  DIY Fashion has you covered.

Maureen Johnson Books

If John Green is the King of the Internet, one could argue that Maureen Johnson is the Queen.  She speaks passionately about things.  She rants.  She answers questions.  In a word, she is kind of awesome.

Go Book Yourself

This site is your basic “If You Like . . . Try This . . .” site with some visual finesse.  Take a book – say The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – and it will recommend 4 readlikes.  In this case it recommends Ask the Passengers by A. S. King, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.  These are great for sharing, though not always YA.

An Oldie but a Goodie: Bookfessions

More Info: 8 Inspirational Blogs from Huffington Post Teen ; 10 Top Tech related Tumblrs