Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

What if paying library staff and teachers to read IS part of the anti-racist work we could, and should, be doing?

Background, Part 1: No, in fact, we don’t get paid to read

One of the things I most often hear when I tell people that I’m a librarian is this: I wish I got paid to read all day. Fun fact: As a librarian I have never, in fact, gotten paid to read. In fact, most of the libraries that I have worked at have expressly forbidden reading while on the clock and then demanded that library staff be well read because part of our jobs is helping patrons find books and doing good reader’s advisory. Funny how that works.

This dynamic means one of two things. One, you have library staff that don’t read because they would have to do so on their own time, which means that all of the book knowledge they have comes from whatever they read in school or casually on their own time. Spoiler alert, whatever they read in school was most likely predominantly written by a white male author and is part of the traditional cannon, whichever age group they were reading and studying. And two, if you do have well read library staff, that means that they are reading on their own time and the library or school is benefiting from the unpaid labor of their staff. Librarianship and education are two of the professions which benefit a lot from both the unpaid labor of their staff and staff spending their own money on materials to help enhance the program. Libraries and schools are wildly underfunded and many of these professionals end up using their own time and money for ongoing professional development and even basic daily supplies.

Background, Part 2: The Overwhelming Whiteness of Librarianship and Education

Graphic Source: The Unbearable Whiteness of Librarianship at The Feral Librarian

Librarianship is a predominantly white occupation. To be more specific, it is predominately a white female occupation. Upwards of 80% of librarians are just like me, a white woman in her 40s (Source: ALA). This is also true for education; over 80% of teachers in 2016 were white (Source: Department of Education). Someone asked recently on Twitter how old you were before you had a Black teacher and neither I, my husband or my two children have had a Black teacher. I went all the way through graduate school without ever having a Black teacher. And my husband and I went to primary school in Southern California, arguably one of the more diverse states in our country.

There is a lot to unpack and discuss regarding the barriers to entry into these professions and the inequities that make them continue to be so largely predominantly white, and those conversations are happening. They are important conversations and it is very important that every aspect of librarianship and education diversify and become more equitable. I encourage my fellow white librarians to read more on the overwhelming whiteness of librarianship, why it matters, and how we can and should help to deconstruct that.

Background, Part 3: The Canon

Those of us in librarianship and education, the people who are buying, reading, teaching and promoting books, often rely on the books we know and feel most comfortable with. The Canon, as it is often called, is and has historically been written predominantly by white males. There are, of course, exceptions, but those are few and far between. Most of what we learned in our own education was built on a foundation of white texts. Lord of the Flies, Shakespeare, The Great Gatsby, John Steinbeck, to name just a few.

And even if you got your degree in the last 10 years from an accredited college or university and studied youth literature, you still probably read primarily books written by white authors because as the statistics tell us, white authors continue to dominate what’s published (Source: CCBC, Lee and Low). This means that a majority of our reading of foundational texts has centered whiteness. For more on this topic, check out the discussions on Decolonizing our Libraries/Bookshelf and Disrupt Texts. These are both initiatives that ask us all to look at what we’re reading and hold ourselves accountable for reading and teaching more diverse texts. You’ll also want to listen and follow the discussions surrounding #OwnVoices.

The Argument

Library and education staff need to be continually reading to keep themselves updated on newer works and to decenter the white experience which has traditionally been emphasized in education. Because this is a vital part of both of these jobs, libraries and schools should pay staff for time spent reading because it is, in fact, vital professional development.

Right now, libraries and schools everywhere are sharing lists of anti-racist reading. But what good are those lists if our own employees don’t even have the space or the time to do the reading? Yes, we could all choose to do the reading on our own time. And many of us will. But requiring staff to provide us with unpaid labor is an unethical practice. It also means that far too many of our staff aren’t, in fact, doing the work because they can’t, or won’t, for various reasons.

Let me be clear on this: In a profession that demands that people be well read in order to either stock library shelves or do good reader’s advisory or to choose and teach meaningful works of literature to kids and adults, we should always have been paying our staff to read. But in this time where we are talking more and more about the importance of reading and knowing diverse literature and doing anti-racist work, we should be paying our staff to do the work to help us better serve our patrons and better educate our communities. We have always needed to be reading and to be reading diversely, but we should definitely do this in meaningful and intentional ways moving forward if we want to cultivate a better read staff and to better take care of our patrons/students.

Please note, I’m not just talking about having staff read anti-racist nonfiction, which we should also be paying staff to do. But paying staff to read board books, pictures books, easy readers, middle grade, YA and adult fiction by BIPOC. That’s the work. Knowing our collections is a very important part of the work so that we can select, share, promote, teach and recommend diverse books to our patrons and in our classrooms.

We can and should have arguments about how one would make sure that if we pay staff to read we can make sure they are reading diversely. There are various ways you could implement this. And this is another benefit of paying staff to read, since you are paying staff to read you can, in fact, implement ways to make sure they are reading diversely. This could mean having staff track reading and auditing their reading. Or it could involve assigning various books. It could mean putting staff into accountability groups. What that can and should look like can and should vary, and that’s not the focus of this post. Here, I simply want to say this: paying staff to read new and updated books is part of professional development and if we implement it in meaningful ways it can be an important part of doing just a small fraction of the anti-racist work we should be doing in our professions. It won’t solve all of the issues, but it’s an important part of the work we need to be doing.

We should have always been doing it, so let’s not make any excuses for ourselves or our professions moving forward. Let’s do the work – and pay our staff for their time doing it.

Questions, a guest post by Supriya Kelkar

Like many people over thirty, after a month of sheltering in place, I finally took the leap and joined TikTok to make videos for AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE. I am lucky to be safe and healthy and have a place to shelter in. But after feeling consumed by stress and worry and sadness with some family members and friends either immunocompromised or sick, and several more employed as healthcare workers risking exposure to care for patients in the hospitals, I needed to take a minute to regroup, and this app was the place for me. Somehow minutes turned to hours, as I found myself laughing louder than I had in weeks at the most ridiculous fifteen-second antics courtesy of other TikTok users.

There were heroic healthcare workers doing the most hilarious dances in between shifts to get a break from their stress, hysterical challenges at home that irritated pets were just not into, and spouses dressing in their Halloween-best to make their significant other laugh during their work calls. It was the perfect distraction.

But within a couple days, TikTok figured out I was Indian-American, and I suddenly found my homepage full of videos from other South-Asian Americans. Many were really funny, full of Bollywood references and entertaining songs and dances, but there were also several TikToks by high schoolers or undergrads that were like short films exploring hyphenated identities, belonging, and microaggressions, and several of them actually listed the hurtful questions the kids and young adults heard all the time.

Surpiya’s book with some yummy paratha

I was intrigued because in my book, AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE, (Aladdin/Simon and Schuster), the main character Lekha, the only Indian-American middle-schooler in a small town in Michigan that doesn’t value diversity, also lists the questions she hears every day. Questions like “where’s your dot? Where are you from? Where are you really from?” and many more. Questions that aren’t coming from a good place. Questions that are meant to make the recipient feel less-than.

I had based these questions on the questions I had heard all the time growing up as one of the few South Asian-Americans in a small town in Michigan that didn’t value diversity. And now, decades after I’d last been in middle school or high school, desis on TikTok were grappling with those same questions, just like other kids across the country have been, like nothing had changed since I was their age.

I was dismayed that things really hadn’t improved much in all those years but I wasn’t surprised. I had written AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE in 2017, when the hate I knew had never gone away was suddenly emboldened and encouraged by people in positions of power. I was full of fear and worry that in a few years, my young children would be facing the same things I did; they would be forced to answer othering or racist questions every day, as if their existence needed an explanation to be permitted.

I was hopeful maybe things would be better when they got older but the TikTok videos were proving that might not be the case. I started to feel down, remembering how years of those questions had rendered me silent. Remembering how, unlike Lekha, who finds her voice over the course of the story in AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE, I didn’t find my voice until years later, in college.

But then, somewhere in between watching the TikTok videos of South Asian-Americans defiantly answering the questions if they wanted to, or literally brushing them aside, swiping the text off-screen, not giving the ignorance their time if that’s what they chose to do, I realized that things had changed. Because unlike the way I dealt with the questions as a kid, shutting down, getting embarrassed or humiliated, these kids and young adults were calling out hypocrisy and appropriation and othering and microaggressions, while speaking up for themselves and speaking out against hate for the whole world to see.

It’s my hope that readers of AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE, who haven’t yet found their way to deal with these questions, are inspired by Lekha’s story to speak out against hate as defiantly as that. I hope it empowers readers everywhere to be proud of who they are and to not let the questions get them down. I hope they are no longer made to feel like they owe anyone answers for who they are. And I hope the pages of this book help them find the answers they are looking for, silence the questions, and stir readers to proudly speak up for themselves and others, be it through art, writing, music, song, dance, poetry, their words, and yes, even through TikTok.

Meet Supriya Kelkar

Photo credit: S. Malde

Supriya grew up in the Midwest, where she learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. Winner of the New Visions Award for her middle grade novel AHIMSA, (Tu Books, 2017), Supriya is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films and one Hollywood feature. Supriya’s books include AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, June 9, 2020) STRONG AS FIRE, FIERCE AS FLAME (Tu Books, 2020), and THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD (Aladdin/Simon and Schuster, 2021).  Learn more at www.supriyakelkar.com

Follow Supriya on Twitter @supriyakelkar_ and on Instagram @supriya.kelkar

Supriya’s local indies are:

Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, MI. https://www.nicolasbooks.com/

Bookbug in Kalamazoo, MI. https://www.bookbugkalamazoo.com/

The Book Beat in Oak Park, MI. https://www.thebookbeat.com/backroom/

Literati in Ann Arbor, MI. https://www.literatibookstore.com/

About American as Paneer Pie

An Indian American girl navigates prejudice in her small town and learns the power of her own voice in this brilliant gem of a middle grade novel full of humor and heart, perfect for fans of Front Desk and Amina’s Voice.

As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.

When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.

To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.

When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

ISBN-13: 9781534439382
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication date: 06/09/2020
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

2018 Diversity Audit Resources – The Quest to Create an Own Voices Master List as an Audit Tool

Whenever I talk about doing a YA collection diversity audit (links at the end of this post), the #1 question I get asked, after how in general, is how do you know if an author is own voices or not. It’s a good question that typically takes a lot of research, even for me. I have somewhat of a basis now using my own collection and my first audit, but starting from scratch was a time consuming endeavor that had me checking and double checking lists I found online and cross checking them with my own shelf list. There are lots of good individual resources out there that focus on things like Latinx authors, or LGBTQ authors, or POC authors, but you have to find and navigate each one, which makes the task a bit more cumbersome.

Lee and Low have a good resource to help librarians understand the Diversity Gap in Children's Litearature http://blog.leeandlow.com/2017/03/30/the-diversity-gap-in-childrens-book-publishing-2017/

Lee and Low have a good resource to help librarians understand the Diversity Gap in Children’s Litearature http://blog.leeandlow.com/2017/03/30/the-diversity-gap-in-childrens-book-publishing-2017/

This year, I want to work on creating an Own Voices master list that would help other YA librarians have some starting points for doing their own diversity audits. Some other librarians have agreed to help.  Lisa Krok (@readonthebeach), Allie (@alphabeticallie) and I are working on creating a YA Own Voices Master List that we can upload to Google Docs and share with the general public. But it’s quite a task and we are working out the details. It’s a discussion in progress. In the meantime, we could really use your help.

Want to know more about Own Voices? Here’s a brief beginning.

#ownvoices • Corinne Duyvis

1. Help us create the Master List by sharing resources you know about in the comments so we can add them to our list.  A lot of people have done some initial work and compiled great lists, so if you know about them please place a link in the comments.

2. If you have some sort of a spreadsheet already and don’t mind sharing, please consider sending it to me via email. We will make sure that your work is acknowledged.

3. If you are an author who wants to be included, please comment below or email me.

A note about this list: Our goal is to create a tool to help YA librarians assess the make up of their collections in order to build the most inclusive collections as possible. We do not expect that this list will ever be exhaustive or all inclusive because new authors are always being announced and also, some authors may not wish to be identified. For example, we do not want to ever accidentally out an LGBTQ author who does not wish to be identified. We also want to work and make sure that we correctly identify authors in the ways they wish to be identified and respect their right not to be included if they so choose. We are choosing to focus not just on works that include diverse characters, which have value, but on focusing on and lifting up own voices authors to help ensure that we are not just lifting up diverse titles, but diverse authors because as recent research has indicated, children’s and YA publishing is still overwhelmingly white. We want our kids to not only read about characters that look like themselves, but to read about it from an author who looks like them and can remind them that not only can they read diversely, but that they too can grow up to be an author and share their words if they so choose.

We live in an increasingly diverse world, but many areas of our lives do not reflect this. Publishing is one of these areas, and we want to provide a resource to help libraries do the necessary work of making sure that they are purposefully curating inclusive collections. While organizations like We Need Diverse Books does the work on helping to diversify publishing, librarians need to do the work of making sure we are buying the books and building inclusive collections for our patrons.

Please note, for the purposes of this discussion, we are talking about books published as YA. I fully understand that teens read both down and up, but for the purposes of this project we will be looking at YA authors who have published at least 1 title published as YA/Teen.

Current Resources and Discussion

Diversity in Publishing

Statistics | Diversity in YA

The Diversity Baseline Survey | Lee & Low Books

Infographic Series: The Diversity Gap | Lee & Low Books

SLJ Resources for Diversity in Kid and YA Lit | School Library Journal

We Need Diverse Books | Official site of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Children’s Book Council (CBC) Diversity ;CBC Diversity Initiative | Children’s Book Council

Cooperative Children’s Book Center: Publishing Stats on Children’s Books and Diversity

Population Statistics

U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts selected: UNITED STATES

LGBT America: By the Numbers | Washington Week – PBS

Doing a Diversity Audit

Diversity in Collection Development – American Library Association

Having Students Analyze Our Classroom Library To See How Diverse It Is

Diversity in Libraries–From Collections and Community to Staff

Third Graders Assess and Improve Diversity of Classroom Library

How You Can Support the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign

Additional Resources: Book Lists and New Releases

Diversity in YA (General)

We Need Diverse Books | Official site of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Reading While White

Rich In Color

Book Lists | Diversity in YAwww.diversityinya.com/category/book-lists/

Diversity in Young Adult and Middle Grade (1351 books) – Goodreads

31 Young Adult Books With Diverse Characters Literally Everyone

Diversity YA Life: Diverse Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror – The Hub

Diversity YA Life: Urban Fiction – The Hub

Rich in Color | Reading & Reviewing Diverse YA Booksrichincolor.com/

Diversify YA Life: Horror with Diverse Characters

50 Years of Diversity in Young Adult Literature by Edith Campbell

60 Diverse Books To Look for in 2017

10 Diverse Books by YA Authors of Color to Read in 2017 | Teen Vogue

Faces of Color on 2017 YA Books – Book Riot

#OwnVoices YA Favorites

14 of Our Most Anticipated OwnVoices YA Books of 2018 – July through December

Asian American Protagonists

Best Asian-American Teen Fiction (156 books) – Goodreads

A Round-Up of Awesome Asian American Protagonists in YA Lit

11 Young Adult Novels By Asian-American Authors – Bustle

LatinX Representation

Latinx Ya Shelf – Goodreads

13 Upcoming YA Books By Latinx Authors To Start Getting Excited

9 Books By Latinx Authors I Wish I Had As A Teenager – Bustle

Latinxs in Kid Lithttps://latinosinkidlit.com/ 

Native American Representation

American Indians in Children’s Literature

#OwnVoices Representation: Native American Authors – YA Interrobang

Teen Books With Native American Characters and Stories (66 books)

Some thoughts on YA lit and American Indians – American Indians in Children’s Literature/Debbie Reese

Books Outside The Box: Native Americans – The Hub

Teen Books by Native Writers to Trumpet Year-Round | School Library

POC Leads

10 Diverse Books by YA Authors of Color to Read in 2017 | Teen Vogue

Faces of Color on 2017 YA Books – Book Riot

12 Young Adult Novels With POC Protagonists – Bustle

14 YA Books About LGBTQ People of Color – The B&N Teen Blog

Books By and About People of Marginalized Races

BrownBookShelf

LGBTQAI+

YA Pride (formerly Gay YA) : YA Pride (@YA_Pride) | Twitter

30 Essential LGBT Books for YA Readers – AbeBooks

100 Must-Read LGBTQIA YA Books – Book Riot

23 of Our Most Anticipated LGBTQA YA Books of 2017 – The B&N

72 Must-Read YA Books Featuring Gay Protagonists – Epic Reads

LGBTQIAP+ Books By People Who Identify as LGBTQIAP+

Trans-Identifying Authors

The Rainbow Book List

Stonewall Book Awards List

Disability in YA Lit

Disability in Kidlit — Reviews, articles, and more about the portrayal of …

People First: Disabilities in YA Lit – The Hub

#ownvoices in Disability and Neurodiversity

Feminist YA

50 Crucial Feminist YA Novels – The B&N Teen Blog

34 Young Adult Books Every Feminist Will Love – BuzzFeed

100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader | Bitch Media

Body Acceptance

5 Body-Positive YA Reads to Take to the Beach – The B&N Teen Blog

Celebrating Every Body: 25 Body Image Positive Books for Mighty Girls

7 Body Positive YA Books That Slay | Brit + Co

Julie Murphy’s ‘Dumplin’ And 6 Other Body Positive YA Novels – Bustle

Religious Diversity in YA

#FSYALit at Teen Librarian Toolbox

Rich in Color | Six YA Books with Middle Eastern or Muslim Protagonists

Diversity in YA Literature: Muslim Teens – The Hub

Jewish Themed Young Adult Books, Not About The Holocaust

The Big Five (+1) in YA: Atheism and Agnosticism – The Hub

The Big Five (+1) in YA: Buddhism – The Hub

Mental Health in YA

#MHYALit at Teen Librarian Toolbox

29 YA Books About Mental Health That Actually Nail It – BuzzFeed

16 YAs That Get it Right: Mental Health Edition – The B&N Teen Blog

YA novels that get real about mental health – HelloGiggles

11 YA Novels That Deal With Mental Health Issues – Bustle

10 Must-Read YA Books That Also Talk About Mental Health – Healthline

Socio-Economic Diversity in YA Lit

Socio-Economic Diversity in YA Lit

Poverty in YA Literature

Rich Teen, Poor Teen: Books that depict teens living in poverty

#SJYALit: A Bibliography of MG and YA Lit Featuring Homeless Youth

Own Voices

MG/YA/NA #ownvoices (216 books) – Goodreads

#OwnVoices in Disability and Neurodiversity | The Daily Dahlia

11 of Our Most Anticipated #OwnVoices Reads of 2017

10 Amazing #OwnVoices Reads from 2016

LGBTQA Science Fiction and Fantasy YA by #OwnVoices Authors

Don’t forget to check out the hasthag #OwnVoices on Twitter

New Releases

YA Books Centralwww.yabookscentral.com/

Teen Reads – www.teenreads.com

Book Riot – www.bookriot.com

Barnes and Noble Teen Blog – www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/

YA Interrobang – www.yainterrobang.com

YA Lit – www.yalit.com

Epic Reads – www.epicreads.com

Pop Crush – www.popcrush.com

Bustle – www.bustle.com

Adventures in YA – www.adventuresinya.com

Coming Soon

17 Upcoming YA by Authors of Color: Bustle

Teens of Color on 2018 YA Book Covers – STACKED – books

2018 YA/MG Books With POC Leads (120 books) – Goodreads

Thirteen YA Books That Feature POC Leads Coming to You This 2018

17 YA Books By Authors Of Color To Look Out For In The First Half Of 2018

2018 YA Books with (Possible) LGBT Themes (114 books) – Goodreads – please note the possible noted here

The Complete List of 2018 YA Releases | Fictionist Magazine

YA Novels of 2018 (708 books) – Goodreads

YA Debuts 2018 (96 books) – Goodreads

Electric Eighteens | Electric 18s – 2018 Debut Young Adult

*with assistance from TLTer Heather Booth

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)

Diversity Audit Outline 2017 with Sources

Book Review: The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and friends

Publisher’s description

cardboard kingdomPerfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Awkward, and All’s Faire in Middle School, this graphic novel follows a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary cardboard into fantastical homemade costumes as they explore conflicts with friends, family, and their own identity.

Welcome to a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary boxes into colorful costumes, and their ordinary block into cardboard kingdom. This is the summer when sixteen kids encounter knights and rogues, robots and monsters—and their own inner demons—on one last quest before school starts again.

In the Cardboard Kingdom, you can be anything you want to be—imagine that!

The Cardboard Kingdom was created, organized, and drawn by Chad Sell with writing from ten other authors: Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez. The Cardboard Kingdom affirms the power of imagination and play during the most important years of adolescent identity-searching and emotional growth.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I’m keeping track of what books I read for younger readers this summer and making a post-it note blog post about them, just like I post during the school year. But I loved this book so much that I wanted to single it out and make sure it gets seen so it can be added to all collections. There is a lot to like about this graphic novel. The vibrant, cheerful art is incredibly appealing, the large cast of characters all get their own little storylines and stand out as unique and memorable—not an easy task when looking at this many characters. I love the emphasis on creativity, imagination, and working together as well as the creative play that allows you to imagine yourself however you’d like to be—or to show the world how you really are. As the parent of a kid who still, at 12, loves nothing more than turning a cardboard box into the scene for some imagined battle, a kid who is generally outside in some kind of costume, I especially love it. The diversity of kids and home lives shown here is effortless, inclusive, and affirming. There’s a boy who lives with this grandmother while his mother is off somewhere else, and needs to learn to care for herself before he can go live with her again. There’s a young child, Jack, who loves the role of the sorceress because she is how he sees himself, how he’d like to be. His mother assures him that she’s okay with that, with him, and that he’s amazing. There’s Miguel who longs to be the romantic lead opposite a dashing prince. Seth’s parents are splitting up and he fears his father’s visits to their house. Some of the kids are the charismatic organizers while others hang back more and have to work a little harder to feel at ease with the group. This is a really excellent book with one of the most diverse groups of kids I’ve seen in a children’s book in a long time. A surefire hit with the graphic novel crowd. 

 

ISBN-13: 9781524719388
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 06/05/2018

 

Book Review: Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock

Publisher’s description

hope nationHope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and personal stories that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Angie Thomas, Marie Lu, James Dashner, Nicola Yoon, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Jason Reynolds, Renée Ahdieh, and many more!

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and—in some cases—even hopeless. The teens of today are the caretakers of tomorrow, and yet it’s difficult for many to find joy or comfort in such a turbulent society. But in trying times, words are power.

Some of today’s most influential young adult authors come together in this highly personal collection of essays and original stories that offer moments of light in the darkness, and show that hope is a decision we all can make.

Like a modern day Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for TeensHope Nation acknowledges the pain and offers words of encouragement.

Authors include: Atia Abawi, Renee Ahdieh, Libba Bray, Howard Bryant, Ally Carter, Ally Condie, James Dashner, Christina Diaz Gonzales, Gayle Forman, Romina Garber, I. W. Gregario, Kate Hart, Bendan Kiely, David Levithan, Alex London, Marie Lu, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, Aisha Saeed, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Jeff Zentner, and Nicola Yoon.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Let me first just say that I really wish the summary for this book didn’t compare this to inspirational books like Chicken Soup or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. For one, I’m not sure how relevant those comps are for actual modern teens, and for another thing, I see those things and immediately think, GACK, no thank you. While this is a book focused on hope and encouragement, it, to me, is nothing like those titles. It is far better. Thank goodness.

 

With the exception of Levithan’s fictional piece based on being at the Women’s March in Atlanta, the rest of this collection is essays from a wide variety of authors. Libba Bray writes about the car accident that changed her life and the hope she finds, loses, and learns will come around again. Angie Thomas discusses the current political climate, the publication of her book The Hate U Give, and three particular encounters after its publication. Ally Condie talks about, among other things, depression and the things and people that help with hope. Marie Lu writes about moving from China to America and survival and adaptation. Jeff Zentner talks about the hope that lies in young Book People and the power of stories. Nicola Yoon recounts the challenges of being an interracial couple. Kate Hart explores her combative relationship with hope. Gayle Forman takes on the topics of travel, hope, and life after 9/11. Christina Diaz Gonzalez talks about baseball, being the only Hispanic girl in her small North Florida town, and her Cuban grandmother. Atia Abawi writes about her dream of being a journalist, persistence, roadblocks, and believing in yourself. Alex London talks about the 90s, prom, drag, and the gender binary. Howard Bryant writes about his newspaper internship in a small Pennsylvania farm town and the lessons he learned there. Ally Carter reveals how long she kept her desire to be a writer a secret. Romina Garber recalls her move from Argentina to the US as a child and what it meant to be an immigrant. Renee Ahdieh  talks identity and how it shaped her. Aisha Saeed writes about apologies and being an American Muslim. Jenny Torres Sanchez discusses growing up afraid of her father and the abuse that he suffered as a child. Nic Stone talks about being African American in this post-2016 election era. Julie Murphy finds home and hope in unexpected places. I.W. Gregorio shares how a repressed teen grew up to become a urologist, and discusses breaking taboos and getting rid of awkwardness. Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely have a conversation about their tour for All American Boys and the conversations and kids who have stuck with them.

 

My favorite thing about anthologies has always been finding new authors to explore, and this collection, that offers so many personal stories and chances for readers to connect on a variety of shared experiences and interests, will surely point young readers toward new names. I am automatically repelled from anything billed as “inspirational” (it’s just how I’m built), but this look at hope and connection will show readers that they are not alone in their experiences, feelings, or concerns. Definitely worth picking up, even if just read to the pieces by your favorites. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781524741679
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 02/27/2018

Book Review: Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! by Marley Dias

Publisher’s description

In this accessible guide with an introduction by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Marley Dias explores activism, social justice, volunteerism, equity and inclusion, and using social media for good. Drawing from her experience, Marley shows kids how they can galvanize their strengths to make positive changes in their communities, while getting support from parents, teachers, and friends to turn dreams into reality. Focusing on the importance of literacy and diversity, Marley offers suggestions on book selection, and delivers hands-on strategies for becoming a lifelong reader.

Amanda’s thoughts

marleyMarley Dias, creator of the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign, talks to young readers about social activism and what YOU can do in this engaging, visually striking new book.

The book looks at Marley’s backstory and the things that led to her creating a social action movement. As a fifth grader, she was disgusted that their reading list consisted of the same old tired classics featuring lots of white boys. She wondered where were the books with kids like her, with black girls, and thus the movement was born. We learn about her parents and their backgrounds, moments from Marley’s life that have shaped who she is (like a trip to Ghana and her involvement in the GrassROOTS Community Foundation), her fashion sense (including her glasses and her hair), her social media presence (and tips for managing a safe, sane life on social media), and so much more. Her book offers tips on how to be woke (and help others to be, too), how to make a difference in your community, how to be an activist, how to be a better reader, how to find books featuring minority characters, and how to effectively do book talks. The book ends with a handy list of about 500 books for middle grade and YA readers featuring black girls. For people who don’t live on Twitter and didn’t see this all unfold in real life, or who have somehow missed all of the media attention surrounding Marley’s project, this will be an especially inspiring read. Young readers will love seeing someone their own age make such a big impact and will be able to walk away from this book with plenty of ideas on how to undertake their own projects. Nicely laid out with lots of fantastic, colorful pictures of Marley and moments from her life, this book focusing on activism, literacy, and diversity is a must-have for school library collections. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781338136890
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 01/30/2018

#ReadForChange: Confronting Racial Injustice with Justyce in Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, a guest post by Marie Marquardt

ReadForChange copyTeen Librarian Toolbox is excited to be partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Hop on over to this post to learn more about the initiative. Today, she and Nic Stone join us for a conversation about racial injustice and Stone’s phenomenal debut novel, Dear Martin

 

It’s so amazing to be living in this time of great change. It’s hard. It’s complicated. It’s not always pretty—I’m thinking about … protests going on because of Eric Garner and Ferguson and Treyvon Martin—the lists go on—but people are angry and done! —and with anger and done-ness comes change. So it may not always look the way we want it to look or sound the way we want it to sound but it’s change nevertheless. We have to be like water, ready to move with it. 

—Jacqueline Woodson (SLJ interview, January 2015)

 

“Ready to Move with It”

dear martinUnflinching. This is the word that comes to mind when I reflect on the experience of reading Dear Martin. Nic Stone weaves together a story that draws us in deep and refuses to let us turn away from the heartache, the confusion, the sorrow, and the violence – physical and emotional – of growing up black and male in the United States.

 

In Dear Martin, we follow Justyce McAllister – a kind, thoughtful, young black man – through his senior year as a scholarship student at an elite Atlanta prep school. We begin in the parking lot of a FarmFresh grocery store where Justyce, trying to come to the rescue of his wasted ex-girlfriend, is physically and verbally assaulted by a police officer. We see, through his experience, the dawning realization that, no matter how smart he is (incredibly smart), no matter how he dresses, no matter how he tries to stay out of trouble and be “more acceptable”, in his own words: “the world is full of people who will always see me as inferior.” His mom sums it up when she asks him, rhetorically, “It’s hard being a black man, ain’t it?”

 

But in the pages of Nic Stone’s novel, Justyce rolls like water…. Struggling to make sense of all that he experiences and wanting so much to do the right thing, Justyce writes a series of letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s how he ends his first letter: “You faced worse shi—I mean stuff than sitting in handcuffs for a few hours, but you stuck to your guns… well, your lack thereof, actually. I wanna try to live like you. Do what you would do. See where it gets me.”

 

Justyce’s year of trying to live like “Martin” takes him, and us (the readers who root so hard for him) to places that are morally complicated and heartbreaking – places that challenge many of us to re-think what we thought we knew about the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and the racially-charged times we live in now.

 

Through the eyes of Justyce, Nic Stone helps readers see the many nuances of racial injustice, and what it must feel like to arrive at that moment of being, in the words of Jacqueline Woodson “angry and done”!  And, as Woodson reminds us, once our eyes are opened, “We have to be like water, ready to move with it.”

 

“Step One is Always Opening Your Eyes and Ears”: A Conversation with Nic Stone

StoneSmileMARIE: Tell us about the moment when you knew that this story had to be written, and that you needed to be the one to write it.

 

NIC: Dear Martin was a response to three things: the myriad shooting deaths of unarmed African American teenagers since 2012, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to these deaths, and the invocation of Dr. King in opposition to this movement—which didn’t sit right with me knowing what I knew about Dr. King and his M.O. So I decided to explore current events through the lens of his teachings to see what would happen. I have two little boys, so it’s really my ode to them and my way of figuring out how to approach the stuff I’ll eventually have to teach them about being black and male in America.

 

MARIE: What are some of the things you’re doing to create the world that you want your sons to live in?

 

NIC: In a word: writing. Books are hugely instrumental in shifting perspectives and opening minds, and it’s a huge honor and privilege to get to create them—and by default, influence minds—for a living.

 

MARIE: What’s your message for readers who want to take action, themselves?

 

NIC: Step one is always opening your eyes and ears. Getting a thumb on the pulse of what’s actually going on. Read. A lot. Write to process. Talk to people. Then, when it comes to the fight against systemic injustice, the next step is to find the people who are already doing the work. There are a lot of… legs to this issue—there’s police accountability, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, you name it—so figuring out where to focus one’s attention is important. Then use your gifts. Write if you write. Talk if you talk. Got a finance background? Use it.

 

“Read. A lot.” (And Listen!)

DearMartin GiveawayOkay, folks.  Time to follow Nic’s advice: Here’s a short list of non-fiction books that would be great companions to Dear Martin – they can help us “get a thumb on the pulse of what’s actually going on” and also inspire us to take action.

 

Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards and Dutchess Harris – Written specifically for middle and high schoolers, the book explores the historical events and movements framing the tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, and the contemporary resistance movements that have emerged in their wake.

 

Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe – A deep look into the 1955 murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, the trial and acquittal of his white murderers, and the horrific event’s role in shaping the Civil Rights Movement.

 

March by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell – A three-volume graphic memoir of the extraordinary Congressman John Lewis (who I’m incredibly proud to say is my own representative in Georgia’s 5th District!). An inspiring reminder of teenagers’ crucial leadership in the Civil Rights Movement.

 

Some more challenging reads that are absolutely worth the effort:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race edited by Jesmyn Ward

We had Sneakers, They had Guns: The Kids who fought for Civil Rights in Mississippi  by Tracy Sugarman

 

And, a podcast, for when you’re taking a break from that stack of fabulous books:

Pod Save the People hosted by DeRay Mckesson, an activist involved in shaping the Black Lives Matter movement. It features weekly conversations on culture, politics, and social justice that offer practical ideas for how each of us can make a difference.

 

The Next Step: “Find the People who are Already Doing the Work”

Ready to take action?  Here are a few recommendations straight from Nic Stone – movements and organizations already doing the important work of fighting for racial justice.

 

RJOY: Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth – works to interrupt cycles of violence and incarceration of kids of color – using a restorative model of justice to repair harm and heal communities.

 

Color of Change: designs campaigns to “end practices that unfairly hold Black people back” and “champions solutions that move us all forward.  Until Justice is real.”

 

Black Lives Matter: A movement for “healing justice” and “rigorous love”: “We affirm our humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

 

Then use your gifts…

Nic Stone Book Launch (1)

In October, I had the pleasure of being at Nic’s book launch event for Dear Martin, where she put her own remarkable gifts to work. Nic chose a format that wasn’t typical, but it was the perfect way to send Justyce’s story into the world. We gathered at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, where, instead of talking about the book or reading from it, Nic asked a panel of three young black men questions about their own experience, their perceptions of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy, and what they want to see change in our society.

 

When asked what we can do to help create change, one of the panelists offered this simple advice: “Read a book. It gives you a different perspective on people.”

 

Let us go forth and #ReadForChange!

Hoping to go forth and read a free signed copy of Dear Martin? Head on over to the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway. US only! We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt February 1!

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season (available 2/20/18). A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

2018: A Year to #ReadForChange, a guest post by Marie Marquardt

Teen Librarian Toolbox is excited to announce that we’re partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Here’s some more about the initiative! 

 

Hello, 2018. Hello, Change.

Throughout 2017, I traveled around the United States talking with students, librarians, teachers, and other YA and MG authors. And, wow.

T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, VA

T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, VA

From Bowling Green, Kentucky to Santa Monica, California; from Tappan Zee, New York to San Antonio, Texas, I heard the same inspiring message: Now, more than ever, readers want books that give us all the feels and open our eyes, hearts, and minds to important social issues. And now, more than ever, authors are stepping forward to give us those stories.

Tappan Zee High School, Orangeburg, NY

Tappan Zee High School, Orangeburg, NY

So many young readers seek novels that offer new ways of looking at the world, challenge them to ask tough questions, and motivate them to take action. And YA and MG authors share their passion.  That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate 2018 to building connections between readers and authors, with the goal of inspiring action for social change.

Writing the Resistance Panel, Yallwest 2017

Writing the Resistance Panel, Yallwest 2017

 

One Year, Twelve YA & MG Books of Cause

Throughout 2018, I will find and share the best-of-the-best YA & MG books that bring attention to important issues and causes, and I’ll connect readers with the incredible people who write them. I’m calling the initiative #ReadForChange, and the first newsletter will arrive right here at Teen Librarian Toolbox on January 20, 2018.

Here’s what to expect:

On the 20th of each month, #ReadForChange will introduce readers to a book of cause, and each month the theme will be new. I’ll recommend a YA or Middle Grade novel that’s an awesome read and also a great window into a social issue that matters now. Whatever the theme for the month, I’ll also link readers to groups and movements that are taking action. So, after being inspired by the story, readers can find good information and get involved. I’ll work hard to connect readers with organizations and movements led by teens, since we all know that teens are doing amazing things to change the world!

 

I’ll also bring authors into the conversation. You’ll hear from featured authors why they want to make change, what they’re doing about it, and what they hope you’ll do. Each month, readers will get a chance to enter a giveaway for the month’s YA or MG Book of Cause, signed by the author (and maybe even some free SWAG to sweeten the deal).

 

Get ready to connect to a year of incredible stories!

Curious to know which great novel is first in the lineup? I’ll be sharing updates, previews, and bonus content on Twitter  (@MarieFMarquardt) and Instagram (marie_marquardt). To get the monthly #ReadForChange newsletter direct to your email inbox, you can subscribe here: http://www.mariemarquardt.com/readforchange/

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of Us, Dream Things True, and Flight Season (available 2/20/18). A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

Why That Book Isn’t in the Library; or, no starting your own small press isn’t always the answer to diversity

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschool

Earlier this week, The New York Times posted an article about sensitivity readers that prompted a heated discussion on Twitter. Because of the holidays I didn’t follow all of the conversations happening, though I did see that author Joyce Carol Oates suggested that historically marginalized authors start their own small presses and literary magazines to help fill the gap.

Besides the fact that this is being done, I recognized immediately what a huge problem this suggestion is, mainly because I know how books get in to our libraries. So let me explain to you why an author starting their own small press won’t help the problem of not enough diversity in publishing from a library perspective.

A library is a business, it’s a non-profit business but it is still a business. So like any business, we have processes and rules and regulations. In fact, because libraries involve spending public money, we are heavily regulated. In the state of Ohio, for example, we are regularly audited by state auditors and we have to be able to show where all of our monies were spent and that we followed all of the rules and regulations. Buying books for the public library is not the same as buying books for your home, there are a variety of rules and processes in place and, unfortunately, they often put small and independent presses at a huge disadvantage when it comes to buying books for our school and public libraries.

Vendors

Most libraries work with specific vendors. This involves POs, which we will talk about in a moment, and vast discounts. Vendors like Baker and Taylor, Ingram and Follett allow libraries to purchase large quantities of books at a steep discount, making our dollars stretch farther. These vendors specialize in library distribution so they have built targeted programs that make putting together large book orders quick and easy. They work with librarians to develop interfaces and do things like built specific carts, find professional reviews in one place, and download catalog records. And I mentioned the discounts, right? The discounts are just as important as the technology. Many libraries will only buy books through their vendor. If a book isn’t offered by the vendor being used by the library, then it can’t be purchased. A lot of small press titles are not distributed by vendors, so being published by one of the big publishing houses eliminates a HUGE stumbling block to getting a book on the shelves of the local public and school library.

Purchase Orders

In every library I have worked at, you have to have a purchase order approved by administration before you can make a purchase. And in many libraries, you can only get a purchase order from a set of pre-approved vendors. Some libraries will approve purchase orders for a local brick and mortar store or for an online retailer like Barnes and Noble or Amazon, but some will not. This depends on the local library and their fiscal officer. The necessity of POs presents yet another stumbling block for getting small and independently published titles into our public libraries.

Catalog Records

Every book that comes into the library must be cataloged. Many libraries used to have large technical services departments that spent the time cataloging each and every book that comes into the library. But as library budgets shrank and technology changed, the cataloging process has changed as well. Today, most libraries purchase the catalog records through the vendor and do very little original cataloging. So for a title to be added to the collection, it has to have a catalog record. I sound like a broken record at this point, but again, this is a stumbling block for small and independently published titles.

Positive Professional Reviews

Public and school libraries often face material challenges. This means that a member of the public objects to having a particularly title in the local library. In order to help address any potential material challenges, libraries go through the process of developing concrete collection development policies and materials challenge procedures. Every library has a policy in place for their book selectors and they often will state that a book must have at least one and sometimes two positive professional reviews before a title can be purchased. Please note it is always professional reviews, which usually means from a professional review journal like School Library Journal, Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus or Booklist. Blogs, Goodreads, etc. typically don’t count as professional reviews. This need for professional reviews again means it is harder for a small or independently published title to get even in front of the eyes of a selector, let alone past one of the gate-keeping measures that libraries must use to build their collections.

With the growth of small and independently published titles, some libraries have taken steps to help incorporate these titles into their local libraries, but not all. Not a lot, in fact. Many libraries will take donations of small and independently published titles by local authors and build local author collections, but this doesn’t help book sales and it doesn’t help get authors on the shelves. And we can debate whether or not these are good policies on the part of libraries for days, but the reality is that libraries have to have operating procedures, they have to be accountable for public monies spent, and they have a responsibility to get the most bank for their buck to best serve their local communities. This need must be balanced with the need to build inclusive collections and provide access, but the reality is that for a lot of library systems, small and independent presses are hard to incorporate into their purchasing routines.

Small and independent presses are a possible solution to help solve the lack of diversity and inclusion in publishing, but they are not the only answer and if we want to help libraries build more inclusive collections, they aren’t the best answer. The truth is that this lack of diversity in publishing is a systemic, multi-faceted problem that needs to be addressed in a variety of ways. One of those ways is that we need for the big publishing houses to start publishing more diverse and inclusive titles. Big publishing houses have done the work of building up marketing and distribution channels, they have the funds to promote the titles, and they have systems in place to get those titles in front of the largest number of eyes possible to start changing the world. Starting your own small press is great, but it has to have the time to be nurtured and developed, and it has to have the funds. I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from starting their own press or literary magazine if that is what they want to do, but that isn’t the right answer to the question of how do we help make our public libraries more diverse today.

Doing a YA Diversity Audit: Answering some follow up questions, including “What about the Conservatives?”

On posts, in tweets, and in my mailbox, one of the questions we – TLT – get asked a lot is “What about the conservatives?” Because we post regularly about GLBTQAI+ literature, talk about advocacy, etc., some are left with the impression that we do not care about meeting the needs of the more conservative parts of our population, which is in no way true. This question came up multiple times regarding my recent series of posts on doing a collection diversity audit.

Slide1

To begin, some background, both personal and professional: I have worked in libraries for 24 years. 4 different library systems in two different states. Personally, I am in fact a Christian. I have an undergraduate degree in Youth Ministry from a conservative Christian college. I live and work in conservative towns. I can assure you, the conservative view point is in no way under represented. In fact, doing a collection audit will help you have the factual information you need to help address these concerns.

Also, I want to address the question of what does it mean when someone says that libraries are liberal and don’t respect conservatives. By definition, public libraries should be inclusive which means they should have books on their shelves representing every point of view. That makes us default liberal, I suppose. But what do people mean when they ask about the conservative viewpoint? They could mean politically conservative, fiscally conservative, dealing with religious beliefs, or just wanting what is commonly referred to as “clean reads”. Often they mean from a Christian or political point of view, but even in non-Christian religions there are both more progressive and conservative points of view. When we talk about religion in the public library, it is vitally important that we stop operating from a Christian point of view.

Because I work with teens, I have found they are most frequently talking about 1) this concept of “clean reads” and 2) the inclusion of GLBTQAI+ literature. I’m not going to debate the basic humanity of any marginalized people, so the inclusion of GLBTQAI+ literature in a library isn’t up for debate. An individual can choose to read or not read, but a public library can not choose to buy or not buy.

I find the concept of “clean reads” to be troublesome because 1) it’s very personal, 2) it implies that other types of books are by definition dirty or less than and 3) unless a person has read every single book in their collection (and no librarian ever has or ever will), this can be a very difficult question to answer. So, what I find to be a “clean read” might be different than what the person I am talking to considers to be a clean, or let’s use the word appropriate because what they are in fact looking for is a book that is appropriate for them or their child. Doing an extensive RA interview can help answer this question, but it’s not foolproof. So I always try to add caveats and give the person I am talking to tools to do further research themselves. This includes teaching them how to use the online catalog and subject headings, finding reviews, etc.

So from the get go, the idea of how do public libraries serve and include the conservative point of view isn’t as straightforward as it is presented. Another issue with the question is that the conservative point of view often works from the standpoint that non-conservative points of view shouldn’t be in our public libraries at all, which is by the mission and definition of a public library an incorrect point of view. Many conservatives, and I know this as a member of the conservative Christian community, believe that any point of view that is contrary to their own should not be permitted because it is offensive. The public library is not there to represent only a portion of the population, it is there to serve and represent the whole, although I would argue that there are in fact some exceptions. For example, works that advocate against the basic humanity and safety of any population group would be considered hate speech and should not be purchased because they put a segment of the population at harm. My POC or GLBTQAI+ teens should be able to come safely into the public library and not have their very existence threatened by the books in my collection.

The reality is that the very thing many conservatives fear is the answer to the question of how are they being served: inclusive collections. Inclusive collections mean that conservatives, whether they be politically or religious conservatives or just readers wanting the appropriate book for them, are best served by truly inclusive collections.

amishreads3 amishreads2 amishreads1

The library that I currently work at, The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, has a large, dedicated Amish fiction collection. This is, of course, in part because we serve a large Amish and conservative population. We understand our local community and work hard to meet its needs in inclusive ways. I have worked at other libraries with large Chinese and Vietnamese collections because there was a large, local Chinese and Vietnamese population. Every library works to understand and serve their local communities in a variety of ways.

I would argue, however, that building inclusive (or diverse) collections, is part of that service. For one, even if it represents a small percentage of your local population, that small percentage still deserves to be represented respectfully in their local library. Their existence is not up for debate, their worth and their rights aren’t either. Secondly, reading diversely is part of the educational value of a public library, the whole “walking in another person’s shoes” and developing compassion for your fellow human beings. We fail our local communities in that aspect of service if we don’t actively build inclusive collections. Even if you serve a local community that is 99% white and conservative, building inclusive collections is part of your mission statement, or at least it should be, because reading outside of one’s own experience is part of a holistic education experience. We are not helping our local communities become educated citizens if we neglect the reality that we live in a diverse world.

We must also never forget that what a person reads ultimately comes down to personal choice. However, our patrons can’t make choices to read diversely if we don’t provide them access to diverse collections. What they ultimately choose to read is on them, but what we provide them access to is on us. If we take away their choices because we presume to know what they want because of a set of very specific and local statistics, then we are failing our local communities.

That’s what inclusive collections are about: ACCESS and CHOICE. That is also why librarians make the statement that if you don’t find something offensive in your local public library, then they are doing it wrong. Take politics out of the mix for a moment and let’s examine another topic: baby care. Not everyone agrees on the topic of baby care. If you have had a baby or listened to people who have tried to raise babies, you will recognize the truth of this statement. Should you let a baby cry it out and sleep train or should you respond to a baby’s every cry and practice kangaroo care? You can find people who will advocate, and quite passionately, for both sides of this coin. And you should be able to find books in your local public library that represent both of these arguments. The person who bought those books might have an opinion on the matter – I certainly do – but that personal opinion doesn’t matter when building a public library collection. We buy authoritative, well reviewed books to represent all points of views. If you walk up to your religion and politics collections, you should find the same: a well balanced collection of titles that represents multiple points of view on a variety of controversial topics.

The truth is, when libraries start doing the work of actively building inclusive collections, it can seem to the majority groups that marginalized groups are taking over. This is part of the fear that comes in equality because those groups that have historically held a position of power are being asked to give up that power in the name of equality, and they almost never want to. For example, men, white cishet Christian men in particular, have historically made up the bulk of the publishing world and there has been a real push of late for publishing to include more diversity and for libraries to build more inclusive collections. And I hear the men saying, well we don’t get to have a voice any more. Which is still statistically not true. I do a diversity audit of my monthly book orders and I can categorically with facts and data prove that this is not true. And even with a very targeted attempt to build a more inclusive YA collection, a thorough audit of my YA collection also reveals that this is not true. Even with targeted, intentional purchasing, my collection is still over 70% white and over 93% straight.

Slide18

One of the questions I get asked repeatedly when I talk about my collection audit and the journey I have taken to build a more intentional and purposeful YA collection is about community push back. I have worked in two fairly conservative communities and have experienced book challenges in both. This is where it’s important that we have up to date collection development policies and make sure that we have trained our staff, and trained them well, to talk about the role of the public library and the value of inclusive collections to our patrons. And if we truly have built inclusive collections, then we should be able to say, “this book may not have been for you, but we have others in our collections that may fit your needs, let me help you find those.”

The truth is, building inclusive collections isn’t about excluding anyone, it’s about including everyone.

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)

Diversity Audit Outline 2017 with Sources