What a great pleasure it was to attend my first summer institute, put together by the phenomemal team at John Burroughs School in fabulous St Louis!
Our two days together were founded on the importance of acknowledging who we are so that we can participate in conversations about who others are. Having a diverse library collection allows for a wide variety of representation reflecting a range of human identifiers – reflecting diversity of content not equality of numbers.
So much important content was covered, I can’t do it justice here, so I simply offer some nuggets from the valuable presentations, engaging activities, phenomenal panels and all the wonderful ensuing conversations. (Thanks and credits below)
Deep Dive into diversity in the library
I appreciated learning about “The Big 8” identifiers (most common but not exclusive and can be adapted as relevant), which offer such a useful framework:
- Mental & physical ability
- Socioeconomic status
- Race (skin colour)
- Ethnicity (cultural/geographic background)
- Sexual orientation
There was good discussion around the importance of recognizing which identifiers are more visible than others, and how that visibility affects our decision-making.
“That teenage feeling of being social awkward, the strangeness of finding love for the first time, the importance of discovering lifelong passions, and being supported by loving famiies – none of these things are exclusive to white, straight cis people and so should not be relegated to white, straight, cis characters.” – Sadie Trombetta Bustle Jan 31/18
Cue mike drop.
Booth’s work on mirrors, windows, and doors is more relevant than ever. What are my readers looking for? What will they find in our collection, and what won’t they find?
One of the most amazing parts of #aislsi2019 was a panel of 12 teen readers who spoke with us about why they value representation in our collections. They were honest, articulate, and appreciative of how their librarians support them, as well as being well-read in such a wonderful variety of genres. Everyone listening left with some serious insights and solid recommendations.
It was interesting to hear that their defaults for finding good books are Google searches and asking their librarians for suggestions; they really reinforced my goal to better train my students on meaningful use of our catalogue (and how it differs from our databases). It was also great to hear how much these students appreciated curated lists for different types of representation.
I truly appreciated the time to wrestle with the logistics of preparing and performing a diversity audit. It is critical to set a goal that is uniquely relevant to our library, and achievable (it was immediately clear that there are many rabbit holes to be avoided if I want to complete an audit in the foreseeable future). Don’t be afraid to set narrow parameters to keep the audit manageable, and carefully consider the timing of the audit in your school year.
A variety of models were offered:
- using a print checklist vs using a Google form to populate Google sheets or your own version of one or the other
- auditing print books by hand vs auditing online (looking at a catalogue records) vs doing an audit of recent book orders
I’m excited by how local and creative I can make this process – loved the suggestion about doing an audit of a book display. I also appreciated the encouragement to start with the end in mind; think about how you’ll want to manipulate your data so that you get the data you want in a format you can use.
Diversity Audit IRL
On Day 2, we had a good chunk of time to test an audit out. We reviewed a great variety of possible goals, and with encouragement to choose a couple specific to us, we set out to independently audit a small group of books (from an available selection of print, or accessing our own through our catalogues).
I chose to audit the first 20 audiobooks in my library’s Overdrive fiction collection. Keeping in mind that this is a VERY subjective process, I chose a very small sample size, and this is my very first time doing this, I share the results in the spirit of collegiality (with a red face and gigantic face palm):
|50% feature white male protagonists|
|30% feature white female protagonists|
|15% feature female protagonists of colour|
|15% feature indigenous protagonists|
|15% feature protagonists with a disability|
|75% written by white authors (male/female equally represented)|
|10% written by authors of colour|
|10% written by indigenous authors|
|40% offer own voice|
I have some work to do, people.
Everyone present was very encouraging, reminding each other to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Engaging in this process will be of benefit to those we serve through our libraries, however imperfect our first kick at the can may be. I truly appreciated doing this in such a judgement-free zone (although found it hard to silence my inner critic).
Thank you to hosts, organizers and presenters Linda Mercer, Jennifer Gosnell, Jennifer Jones, Jennifer Kinney, Jennifer Millikan, Marybeth Huff, Kate Grantham and everyone else who made this happen – it was truly meaningful time together. John Burroughs is a beautiful school and St Louis is an amazing city! #gocardinals
PS: I highly recommend attending SI in the future – it was lovely having post-school time to delve into some amazing PD without being distracted by what was happening back at school 🙂