if we want to see more diversity in literature, we have to buy the books

school library journal graphic

School Library Journal came out with their Diversity Issue a few months ago and it’s been on my “to read” pile since then. Their lead article Children’s Books: Still an All-White World? tells a depressing tale of under-representation of black children in US children’s books (they are the only ethnic group mentioned, I am presuming this goes doubly so for groups with smaller representation in the US) and ends with a call to action for librarians to make sure they are creating a market for these titles to encourage more books by and about all kinds of people.

I grew up in a Free to Be You and Me sort of world where my mother actively selected books for me to read with a wide range of ethnicities represented. I had dolls representing many backgrounds. My mother wrote textbooks where there were strict rules about being inclusive and representative and, living in a small town, I assumed this was the way the rest of the world worked. Not so. Reading this article drove home the point that while I may have been a young person during a rare time of expansion of titles and characters of color, that expansion slowed and the situation is still stagnant even as the US is becoming more diverse than ever. Another article in the Diversity Issue highlights research which indicates that “the inclusion of these cross-group images encourages cross-group play“. Sounds like a good thing. We should be doing more.

Being a librarian in the human library

A long while back there was a human interest story with an eye catching title “Check out a lesbian!” or som such. The idea was to explore the idea of predjudices by having a conversation with someone in a group you maybe didn’t know anyone in. The object, at some level, to be realizing we’re all people, expanding your horizons, etc. I had forgotten about it until recently until Ben Ropp sent me an email asking about it. Looks like the program, HUMAN Library, now has a nice website with a lot of extra “how to” information and some example libraries (and a longer list) worldwide that have tried it. I’m happy to see this project still going strong.

Versed, published by ALA’s Office for Diversity

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it was over a year ago. Under Tracie Hall’s skillful directorship, the ALA Office for Diversity has really been turning out some quality content in their newsletter Versed. I picked up the latest issue at ALA and read it on the plane on the way home. I particularly enjoyed the interviews with past ALA president Betty Turock, East Cleveland Public Library director Greg Reese and the conversation about how to grapple with racism, sexism and the future of the profession.

I wrote my dissertation on job satisfaction of Black librarians in some urban systems of the Midwest, New England, and the Mid-Atlantic states. I did a lot of interviewing. Salary was not a factor in why people were happy or unhappy. It wasn’t even mentioned. What gave people the greatest job satisfaction was being able to help people and doing the work of a librarian. A third major reason was one I was totally unprepared for — a feeling by Black librarians that they were doing the work of God. They felt a calling. It was really striking. The major reason for workplace dissatisfaction was working in a hostile workplace and being subjected to discrimination by library directors, staff, and patrons.

Clark Atlanta library school closes, follow-up meeting planned at ALA

Clark Atlanta University School of Library and Information Studies graduated its last class of students and is now closed. The former library school is having a meeting at ALA Sunday, June 26, 2005, 5:30-7:30pm for people to talk about Clark Atlanta and discuss the school’s legacy. The Black Caucus of ALA has a bit more information. The loss of one of the only library schools at a traditionally black university is another blow against increasing diversity in the library profession. If you’re interested in this issue, you might want to keep an eye on Save Library & Information Studies. They’ve got a good collection of required reading and, it appears, a good designer. [thanks tim]