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Collection Development and Maintenance: Collection Diversity

Diversify Your Collections

Promoting diversity in your library can mean many different things. For starters, it means having books about all types of people available for all ages. This might be different nationalities, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, sexualities, genders, religions, body types, and family groupings. Even more than having these books available, though, it means that you need to promote these books to all of your patrons equally. It's important for children and adults to see themselves represented in the library in a meaningful way, and it's equally as important for patrons to see others' lives that they may not be experiencing represented fairly and accurately. 

When purchasing books or looking through your collection, consider looking for diverse materials and making sure that the characters are portrayed in a compassionate way. 

  • Avoid representing only one side of a story. Not all books about Jewish families should be about the Holocaust, not all books with an LGBT character should be about coming out, and not all books with disabled characters should be about "overcoming" their disability.
  • Pay attention to the materials in the collection that represent ethnicities and nationalities and avoid stereotypes such as colored youth being in gangs, the white savior, and the "noble savage."
  • Actively seek out materials that empower marginalized groups; one easy way to do this is to look at book awards and lists for diverse materials (a list can be found here).

The #OwnVoices movement has been particularly helpful with making sure the book characters are represented well by highlighting diverse books and characters that are written by authors from that same diverse group. Diverse books are wonderful because they represent the full spectrum of human experience. Just because something is not your personal reality doesn't mean that it is not real for someone else.So, how can the library encourage diverse readership? Step one is purchasing the materials, because books can't circulate if they aren't on the shelves. After that, the books need to be promoted just like any other type of book. Books can be talked about as a part of a readers advisory session, highlighted in the weekly newspaper, promoted on Facebook and in library displays, read for a book club, and any other way the collection is usually promoted. Make sure library staff is familiar with these titles and that they are a part of their normal interactions at the library.