Diversity in Libraries
A blog for exploring and discussing the topics of diversity and multiculturalism in libraries.

Jan
02

Recently, I discovered the Wow! or Worlds of Words website which is a site dedicated to reviewing children and adolescent literature around the world.  The site allows you to search and browse books within their database and also provides links to their two free online journals Wow Stories and Wow Reviews.

Check it out if you have a moment!

Wow!

Dec
09

Recently, I received an email through the Reforma (The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) listserv about a new website designed to provide useful information and resources to Hispanics in the U.S.  The website is called HispanosInfo and is written in both Spanish and English.  (Look for the button that says “English” on the main page to switch the language.)  The site includes sections on health, education, immigration, finances, and love.

The website was created by a market and political research firm in New York called LatinInsights in response to a lack of bilingual information available to Hispanics on the Internet.  As to the website’s goal, firm president Marcela Miguel Berland, states that the website aims “to provide a service that helps Spanish-dominant persons find important information quickly and easily, to be pointed in the right direction.  Our goal is to help them realize their dream and create a virtual community for all Latinos.” (Capital Wire PR, 2009)

This seems like a useful website and might come in handy if you are ever trying to help a Spanish-speaking patron.  The dual language option would certainly help bridge some of the language barrier!

To access the website click on the screenshot below.

HispanosInfo screenshot

Discussion Questions:

1) What do you think of the website? Would you refer patrons to it?

Resources:

(December 8, 2009) New Website Offers Vital Information to Hispanics: Capital Wire PR. Retrieved December 9, 2008 from http://www.capitalwirepr.com/pr_description.php?id=886165f4-4f35-72d2-3019-4b1e64660eef

Dec
08

I found an article that gives an example of how to diversify a library’s collection. The example takes place at the Old Dominion University Library in Norfolk Virginia.

First identify the minority groups that are within the community, in this example this could be done by looking at the enrollment records of the University for the last 10 years. Based on the minority groups that are present in the area, find books that are about these topics so everyone can learn about them.

To accomplish diversification the collection needs to be assessed to identify which materials should be purchased and what is already owned, evaluating the collection based on suggested lists or guidelines.

An example of a list to look through is:

  • Focus on Multicultural Studies (1994), Blackwell North America, Inc., Lake Oswego, OR.

Eventually a list was compiled of books to be purchased when the budget would allow for it. To expand a collection if funding is not available use WorldCat or the local consortium to borrow books on the topic if they are needed.

The goal is to represent international students or in a community to represent all of the minorities no matter how small they are. I strongly support the importance of community libraries to include all minorities in their community within their collection. If this cannot be achieved, then outsourcing is the next best option.

The article I referred to is:

  • Pettingill, Ann, & Morgan, Pamela. (1996). Building a retrospective multicultural collection: a practical approach. Collection Building, 15(3), 10-16.

Another Article of Interest is:

  • Jessica Schomberg, & Michelle Grace. (2005). Expanding a collection to reflect diverse user populations. Collection Building, 24(4), 124-126

Or just looking at the journal Collection Building

Nov
28

By: Jessica Morales

The University of North Carolina Greensboro’s Department of Library and Information Studies held a summit this month. The focus was Information, Diversity, Engagement, Access and Libraries (iDEALS).

The Summit begins with an inspirational message of the importance of serving diverse communities. Then keynote speaker, ALA president, Camila Alire presents on the importance and implementation of diversity. The best thing is you can see it ALL on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8TbPx_0IF0 If you are unable to watch the entire summit make sure you catch the hot topic Q & A with Camila Alire.



Reference: http://www.uncg.edu/lis/about/ideals.html

Nov
23

By Margaret Rainwater

Well, after posting on stereotypical children’s literature like The Story of Little Black Sambo, I thought it might be a good idea to post an example of non-stereotypical literature. Today, while listening to Detroit Today on NPR’s WDET 101.9, I was able to hear radio host Craig Fahle’s interview with local children’s book author Tara Michener, a resident of Novi and lifelong Michigander.

Although new to the world of children’s literature, Michener has ample experience promoting diversity. At Valassis Communications, she is the recruitment chair on the company’s Diversity Council and has experienced racial difficulties as an African American woman married to a Caucasian man.

In 2008, she published her first children’s book in the “Who I Am” series titled Who I Am Not What I Am about a young biracial girl named Janelle who encounters questions about “what she is” at school. Her mother helps her see that she has many other qualities beyond the color of her skin that define who she is. Her second book in the series, 100% Real, was published this past September and is about a girl named Zoey who is dealing with questions about her adoption.

Who I Am Not What I Am

100% Real

I haven’t read either of these books yet, but I’ve got one ordered through MeLCat and I’ll report back after I’ve read it. However, based on what I heard on the radio these books are exactly the type of books that we want to be promoting in libraries.

Author Events

If you’re interested in her work Michener can be found both in cyberspace and locally over the next few days.

Nov. 23-24 (12 noon to 12 noon) Social Networking Marathon

Michener is challenging herself to 24 hours of availability to readers and fans via Twitter, Facebook, and her blog.

Author’s Blog

Nov. 28 (12 – 2:00 p.m.) Book Signing at Great Lakes Crossing, Auburn Hills, MI

Join Michener at the Borders Express within the mall for a signed copy of her books.

Discussion Questions:

1) Have you read either of Michener’s books? Do these sound like books you would purchase for your library?

2) Can you recommend any other children’s books that promote diversity and avoid stereotypes?

Resources:
Von Buskirk, W. (2008) Novi author pens book to help bi-racial kid. Retrieved on November 23, 2009 from http://www.madonna.edu/pdf/AlumnaMichenerbookNoviNews08.pdf

—. (2009) Northville Newsmakers. Retrieved on November 23, 2009 from http://www.hometownlife.com/article/20091029/NEWS12/910290389/1029/Northville+Newsmakers

Images from the author’s blog “whoiamnotwhatiam” (http://www.whoiamnotwhatiam.blogspot.com/)

Nov
19

By: Gal Warshai

A collection is hard to define because it has many variables which will determine the choices of what will be included. There are many different types of libraries in existence and each has a different approach to what is wanted or needed in that specific library or library system. One variable is what type of library, a Public School system for example has different requirements than a Public Library, or a University Library. Another variable is what type of access the patrons have, and what the users want to learn about or exclude. A public institution might have more leeway in collection choices than a smaller community that might object to specific materials within the collection. The policy for a specific library is usually created with input from the community that it serves.

Each newly formed library creates a collection policy at its inception which are guidelines for the acquisitions of new materials as well as suggestions of what to include. What is harder to do then forming a new collection is evaluating an existing collection, which involves looking what is already owned and what still needs to be purchased to make the collection more complete.

The choices of what is added to the specific collection varies on the demographics of a community and what specific topics in that community are chosen to be highlighted or excluded. There are so many different topics of Multiculturalism and Diversity that exist today that everyone should have access to learn about them but it is hard to choose the topics and to what extent to include them in a library collection. These topics include but are not limited to: ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, and sexual orientation, etc.

Discussion Topics:

What is your specific library’s collection management policy?

How did they form the collection management policy?

Suggested Reading:

Harloe, Bart, ed. Guide to Cooperative Collection Development (ALA Online Store). Collection Management and Development Guides, no.6. Chicago: ALA, 1994.

Nov
18

Planning events that fairly represent a group of people is easier said than done. How do you portray a culture without conforming to stereotypes, educate people at the same time, and involve everyone? Librarians, or anyone for that matter, trying to incorporate diversity into their events are baffled to this day by this question because, truth be told, there is not a definitive answer to the predicament. But instead of charging head first into the unknown, librarians (or those creating multicultural programs) can follow some helpful guidelines.

Guideline #1

  •       Multicultural programming is NOT “cultural tourism”
  •       Don’t be afraid to have programs about foreign countries (ex. Mexico) but understand that these should not replace programs about specific groups in the United States (ex. Mexican Americans).
  •       Multicultural programs give children a chance to gain knowledge of their heritage while also acquiring skills to identify with their surroundings.

Guideline #2

  •       The earlier the better.
  •       By the age of seven, children have already conformed to most prejudices and although by no means impossible, after this point in a child’s life, librarians have missed their golden chance to integrate multicultural ideas.

Guideline #3

  •       Multiculturalism is not a once of month deal.
  •       Provide programs that honor cultural diversity throughout the year so that programs do not become superficial by limiting multiculturalism to Black History month or Cinco de Mayo. These months are not useless, but if libraries focus on diversity only once a month (or less) then these times meant to honor a culture will lose as much meaning as the ‘true’ meaning of Christmas has to most Christians. 

Guideline #4

  •       Go out into the community and see what programs local organizations are holding.
  •       There is nothing wrong with librarians mimicking already successful programs in the community or supporting already up and running events instead of trying to independently host events in the library.

Guideline #5

  •       When creating a program:

1)      This isn’t your typical story hour! Start a story time that involves literary, oral, and cultural traditions that are both educational, authentic, and allow the community and library to work together in addition to the  traditional session where the librarian sits and reads with children sitting at her/his feet. (This is not as easy as it sounds, but DON’T panic, it is possible)

2)      Have craft sessions that reflect the culture in its complexity and within its cultural context. (Try to avoid stereotypes, even if you think they are harmless stereotypes, unless the traditional “image” is properly placed within that cultures practices)

3)      Host booktalks, reading clubs, and read aloud sessions. Children like to express their opinion on what they read or hear just as much as you do.

Guideline #6

  •       USE YOUR IMAGINATION!
  •       Go off an idea that you like or are passionate about and entwine it with your programs. If you like mythology, then shape a program to be both fun and educational and once you have done a program and are a little more comfortable then branch off and use other ideas.

By: Tamie Bird

For more thorough examples check out

Harrington, J. N. (1994). Multiculturalism in Library Programming for Children. Chicago: American Library Association.

Nov
18

By Margaret Rainwater

In her article on “Questioning Your Collection,” Toby Rajput discusses The Council on Interracial Books for Children’s (CIBC) “10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children’s Books for Racism and Sexism” originally published in 1974 and offers a set of questions for school media specialists and youth librarians to consider when evaluating their collections. The CIBC’s recommendations are listed below.

10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children’s Books for Racism and Sexism

1. Check the illustrations.
2. Check the storyline.
3. Look at the lifestyles.
4. Weigh the relationships between people.
5. Note the heroes.
6. Consider the effect on a child’s self image.
7. Consider the author or illustrator’s background.
8. Check out the author’s perspective.
9. Watch for loaded words.
10. Look at the copyright date.

Recently, for a children’s literature class I am taking, my professor assigned two book reviews on children’s books with stereotypes using the CIBC recommendations as a guide. This turned out to be quite a difficult task. When I asked the youth librarians at my library for some recommendations of stereotypical books, they told me that they had already removed many of the blatantly stereotypical books from their shelves. (In particular, I was looking for a controversial book called The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman.) To find this book and other ones containing stereotypes I had to go another larger library and even then the librarians had a hard time coming up with titles for me.

The Story of Little Black Sambo

I have since learned that stereotypes exist in all books to some degree. Take for instance the stereotypes of women wearing an apron or of female librarians with reading glasses. These stereotypes may not warrant pulling a book off the shelves, but what about The Story of Little Black Sambo, which has been called racist due its portrayal of Africans?

I would argue that they do belong in libraries both school and public for two reasons. First, these books have historical significance and are useful in looking at how children’s books have evolved over the years. Second, despite the stereotypical nature of a book, the story or information itself may make a book worth keeping. Toby Rajput, argues that the best way to use these types of books is as vehicles for teaching children to be critical readers. (2009, p. 68) I wholeheartedly agree. Let’s not get rid of the books, but teach children how to recognize the stereotypes in them. As Rajput says, “If all children learn to critically evaluate the books the read, we need never fear any book on our library shelves.” (2009, p. 68)

Discussion Questions:

1) Does your library have The Story of Little Black Sambo (1924 version or earlier)? Have you read it? (If not, I highly recommend it. It’s actually a very cute story minus the stereotypical references.)

2) Do blatantly stereotypical books belong in libraries?

Reference:
Rajput, T. (2009) Questioning Your Collection. Knowledge Quest. 38 (1), 62-69.

Nov
18

By: Jessica Morales

Digital Native? Idaho has created or rather brought attention to the term “digital native”. As defined by the Idaho Commissions for Libraries (ICFL) a digital native is: “The generation growing up with computers and the internet since infancy.”

The ICFL contracted a research group to determine the views that digital natives have of public libraries. The diversity amongst the participants was wide but the age group was restricted to people within 12 to 25 years old. Here are just a few highlights of their findings.

  • Digital natives deem learning a necessity in order to progress in life and they highly value education and learning.
  • Digital natives believe that it is important to learn other viewpoints from the internet and face to face
  • They are most likely to pay attention to information that is fun and interesting, both in content and presentation
  • Convenience is most important when digital natives seek information
  • Digital natives are in search of places to socialize and the generally view the library as a place for the old and young and serious work

Idaho has taken these finding and adapted their services to include coffee shops, teen spaces, and activities for patrons of all ages and venues for community activities. In doing so they found that “communities are coming together across cultural boundaries to meet in the library.”

Discussion topics:

What are ways that your local library has adapted to the needs of digital natives?

With technology changing so swiftly and the time it takes to implement new services do you think a library will be able to keep pace with its patrons demands or needs?

Reference:

Biladeau, S. (2009). Technology and Diversity: Perceptions of Idaho’s “Digital Natives”. [Feature]. Teacher Librarian, 36(3), 20-21.

Nov
17

 

By: Jessica Morales

While researching for advantages to maintaining a diverse staff the following reasons became common to me as I saw them repeated in slight variations in different articles.

  • A cultural staff would be beneficial in deciding service and materials for specific groups of library patrons
  • Staff members who are bi-lingual can help non-English speaking patrons
  • Hiring staff that reflects the community often increases the number of users in that community
  • Having a diverse staff allows you to think outside of the box
  • Staff members will have their cultural differences to share with one another. Thus, a learning atmosphere will be created. (“Reasons for Hiring a Diverse Staff,” 2007)

After reading these I began to wonder why people find security in ethnicity rather than the ability one has to aid them in accessing the information they desire.

Continuing on with my research, I kept coming across Meeting the Health Information Needs of a Diverse Population. It came up in several of my searches on different databases and I kept disregarding it until, I finally succumbed.  My earlier thoughts of ethnicity playing a role in the way information is accessed began to come to light.

This article discusses the important role the library plays in distributing information regarding health to diverse communities. Also, how the library is able to lift barriers for those seeking information about health. (Alpi & Bibel, 2004) After reading this everything became relevant. What if I were in a situation where a language barrier prevented me from gaining access to information as important as health. I am certain that the sight of someone I knew that could communicate with me would be welcomed. Undoubtedly, there are other staff members from different ethnicities that are able to communicate in other languages. However, I would have to imagine that some sort of comfort must exist is seeing someone who MAY speak your native tongue, when you are surrounded by a majority that does not.

 

Discussion Questions:

What are some other situations that you think having a diverse staff would be beneficial?

Can you think of a situation where interacting with people who share your ethnicity makes a difference?

 

References:

Alpi, K. M., & Bibel, B. M. (2004). Meeting the Health Information Needs of Diverse Populations. [Feature]. Library Trends, 53(2), 268-282.

Reasons for Hiring a Diverse Staff (2007). [Feature]. Illinois Library Association Reporter, 25(5), 21.

 

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