Using Diversity to Build a Library Program & Collection

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As a library media teacher, you are probably interested in building and maintaining the best collection possible for your school. This lesson helps you understand how to use the diversity of your community to help you build your collection.

Diversity in the Library

Lucy is the new library media teacher at Rockland Middle School, and she is so excited to get started at her new job! She knows that one of her many tasks is ensuring that the library's collection, or set of books and other media, is up to date, appealing, and meaningful to the students in her school.

Lately, Lucy has been thinking about the specific importance of diversity, or representation of difference, in her library's collection. She knows that Rockland has a diverse student population, and she knows that families and other community members think a lot about what they can learn from each other, their similarities and their differences.

Lucy knows that diversity can be especially meaningful in a library; historically, libraries were not particularly diverse places, but times have changed, and Lucy is determined for Rockland's library to keep up.

Categories of Diversity

As Lucy starts thinking about using diversity to build her program and collection, she begins by thinking about what diversity really means to her. After all, it is one thing to have a dictionary definition, but it is another for each librarian to think about what diversity really means and why it is important.

Lucy considers a variety of categories as she thinks about diversity. Then, she realizes that it will be important to make sure her collection houses authors from as many of these categories as possible. Further, she wants to make sure that her fiction collection represents a wide variety of characters and issues.

Some of the things Lucy thinks about include:

  • Race

Lucy wants to make sure authors and characters in her collection represent many different racial groups and identifications. Further, she wants to get beyond racial stereotypes in her collection, and she consults many lists to make sure she is not simply having token representatives from different racial groups.

  • Socioeconomic Status

Similarly, Lucy works to make sure her library is accessible to students from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. This means having representation of different authors and characters. It also means never assuming students have access to libraries in their free time, and treating students equitably when they come to the library.

  • Gender and Sexuality

Lucy inventories her collection to assess the representation of women authors and girl characters, and she works toward equal balance. She also stays on top of publications with LGBTQ characters, and she ensures that her collection represents a variety of family constellations.

  • Ability

Thinking about ability in the library collection and a program means making sure the library and its books are accessible to all community members, physically and cognitively. It also means making sure that books and media in the library represent characters and authors with a variety of disabilities and show the true diversity of the world in this way.

Lucy knows that there are countless aspects of diversity; some others include ethnicity, religion, and immigration status. She remains focused on as many of these categories as possible as she builds her collection and program, and she also keeps in mind intersectionality, or the ways these categories overlap with each other.

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