Do you have an ample multicultural collection as well as enough diverse literature for all the children and young adults who are visiting your libraries?
I recently attended a very informative lecture on this topic by Alicia Long, a librarian and supervisor at State College of Florida, an ALA Spectrum Scholar and ALA Emergng Leader. We need to have a plethora of books on social justice and stories on our shelves that can relate to our audience. Whose voices are missing? We need to have bilingual books in addition to bicultural volumes. The books need to create empathy. We, librarians, are curators of stories. As such, we have the power to influence whose stories are represented in our shelves, whose stories are featured in our programs, and whose stories we recommend and promote. We need to constantly ask ourselves why we have stories about whom and by whom? Whose stories are told in children’s books? Who wrote and illustrated those stories?
As you take time to analyze your own collection try to think about it using these 3 terms:
Mirrors – books where the reader sees themselves – characters like the reader
Windows – books where the reader sees other worlds – characters not like the reader
Sliding Doors – books where the reader enters that world – the reader gets to live the characters’ experiences.
Here are some charts of diversity in children’s books from 2015 and 2018. As you compare them ask yourself if we are there yet?
Ask yourself whose voice is missing?
Some of the suggestions that were discussed included the following:
*Instead of Heritage Months (Hispanic, Black Histry, Asian-Pacific, Native American)…
Include #OwnVoices Books – year long displays and programs
*Instead of bilingual stories…
Include bilingual and bicultural stories or multilingual and multicultural
*Instead of translated popular and classics…
Include original stories
Instead of representation only in the collection…
Include representation in programming, staff, performers, outreach
Instead of being defensive (“I try my best”)…
Include input from insiders and accept criticism
Follow the experts and insiders (see chart) and award winners like ALA, YMA, and more.
I would like to share this powerful quote from Jessamyn West from the USF School of Information, “Understand when you are coming from a position of power and use that power graciously and for good.” We, librarians, have that power….how are we using it?
Some challenges to our readers could be:
- Read about a character not like you
- Read a book with a setting not like the one you grew up in
- Read a book from a genre that you never choose
“All our stories are important and when we share them, we begin to understand each other”…Margarita Engle (2016 Belpre Author Award Acceptance Speech)