Welcome to the 11th month of the Dive into Diversity challenge! Rebecca and I can hardly believe we are just about done, but here we are. In the last sparkly original post, I’m piggybacking off some feelings I’ve had lately — how the general public who doesn’t spend a lot of time hanging out in the online book community or reading Publishers Weekly is finding out about the We Need Diverse Books campaign. Of course, I immediately think of librarians who work tirelessly to stock their libraries with books their community wants to read, recommend titles when asked, and make everyone feels welcome.
So I asked a few librarians to answer some questions on their jobs and how the diversity campaign has essentially affected how they do their job. Did they feel like the people who aren’t invested in these book/publishing bubbles were knew what was going on? What about the future? I hope you enjoy their insights and give you a little taste into DIVERSITY IN THE REAL WORLD.
Eden has been a young adult librarian in Kentucky for 3 years. @edenjeangrey
(Diverse) books and authors have you been recommending this year: Mostly books about mental illness, like Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman and My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga.
On how to connect the campaign with patrons: I feel that customizing and tailoring your individual approach to diversity in library collections and services is crucial – just promoting diversity in general isn’t going to accomplish as much. Take time to determine what diversity means for our community, your service area, and your patrons, and work according to their identities and needs.
On what’s changed since the WNDB campaign became “mainstream”: When I first got into librarianship, if I brought up the need for diversity in YA or kidlit, I’d get uncomfortable silences on listservs and in conversations. Only a few brave souls would answer. There was a deafening silence from the rest. Now that the WNDB campaign is more “mainstream,” many more people are willing to at least listen to the need for diversity.
(Diverse) books and authors you’ve been recommending: Grace Lin, Zetta Elliott, Jacqueline Woodson, Neesha Meminger, Yuyi Morales, Uma Krishnaswami, Mitali Perkins, Janine Macbeth, Misako Rocks, books published by Lee & Low press, Corduroy, the list goes on and on and on!
Patrons and their quest for change: Young parents of color…are keenly aware that they didn’t get to see themselves accurately and genuinely reflected in books as they were growing up, but that they want their kids to have this important connection to literature, in a visceral way. This generation of parents of color are already clamoring for books that represent their lives, their realities, so that they can share these with their children.
On what needs to happen next: …this push for diversity is mistaken as needing to be fulfilled by getting already well-known mainstream white writers to write diverse characters into their books. Don’t get me wrong; this trend is definitely a step in the right direction, for the most part. But what would be WAY more heartening is to see publishers taking chances on a LARGE number of first-time writers of color, to allow the diverse stories to be told through diverse authorial voices.
Since WNDB how her book ordering has changed: Instead of ordering, say, 4 copies of a book by a popular author, I have diversified my collections by purchasing only 1 copy of a popular book and then using the remaining funds to buy new books that showcase diversity.
(Diverse) books and authors you’ve been recommending: Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy; George by Alex Gino; Princeless by Jeremy Whitley; Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn; Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, always and forever. <3
How the word can spread even more: Merchandising. Teens love free stuff, especially if it’s LEGALLY free (ha!). The acronym itself would be intriguing if teens didn’t know what it was. And if we can turn it into an identifying rallying cry, like DFTBA? (Editor’s not: I had to look this up. Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.) Then that’s it. Maybe vlogging, snap chatting — whatever social media the teens are on, we need to be there too.
Librarians are some of my favorite people in the UNIVERSE and I’m so glad to spotlight some of them today and hear about their experiences. There are so many layers to this campaign, and I wish I could have featured even more people because I love to be nosey and see how all of this is rolling in the real world. That being said, if you are a librarian, who has tips, tricks, and thoughts to share about the WNDB campaign — please feel free to do so below. Can’t wait to hear from you! Happy Tuesday, and happy almost Thanksgiving!
Oh, and don’t forget to stop by Rebecca’s Dive Into Diversity stop!
(And a big thanks to Emma @ Miss Print for helping me out with this!)