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Monday, May 21, 2018

Call to Action-- How to Identify Diverse Books Before They Are Published [via Kelly Jensen and Book Riot]

As readers of this blog know, I have been on all of you for a while now about not only diversifying your own reading, but promoting more diverse reads.

You can click here to see many of my rants about this topic. [I especially think you need to read this one] But, I have also been particularly on all of us about how we need to do better when it comes to Library Reads.

Here’s the hard truth about this “too many white books” issue-- librarians are over 80% white ladies. White ladies are the majority and if there is a problem here [which there is] then the only way to fix it is with those in that majority to take a stand. Marginalized people should not have to “fix” a problem the majority has created. In fact, I find it repulsive that we throw this issue back at marginalized librarians to handle it for us.

To be fair, I work behind the scenes with some of marginalized librarians to make sure I am addressing the issue appropriately [because good intentions are not always enough], but it is the white lady librarians who need to lead the charge and Kelly Jensen and I are ready and willing.

A few months ago, Kelly and I went out to lunch to work out a plan to combat this problem AND give you all the information you need to be successful executing the plan. We have both put our positions out in public; we have both made it clear that we are mad and fed up, and we have both implored you all to do better.  Well, today we have your marching orders.

Kelly offered to take the lead and begin this next step with a how-to post on identifying diverse books  on Book Riot because we are sick of all you all complaining that you can’t find diverse books.

We are specifically targeting the Library Reads nomination process to effect real change.  As I have said here and Kelly also says in her post, stop using the LR list to promote the big name titles people would be ordering no matter what.

While Kelly has taken on the topic of identifying new diverse titles, I have started a tangential discussion to help solve the problem on older books, books which are perfectly good to book talk except that you all tell me you can’t because you haven’t read them. My solution, “Use the Words of Others to Booktalk.”  Seriously, you can read a review off of Goodreads or Novelist of a “diverse” title and that’s a booktalk.

So Kelly gives you the new book info and I have the backlist. This means you can start today with older titles while you look forward to promoting new ones.

But we are not stopping here. Next, look for more conversations about this issue coming from me and Kelly. We are gathering your comments [and both of us have received many, some kind, and some less so] and we will have a series of conversations shared in print and in person where we can address frank and honest concerns and issues. But I promise you this, we will not make excuses for any of you, nor will we let you get away with making excuses for yourself.

So read Kelly’s post. The intro paragraphs and a link to the full piece are below. She even gives you access to the database she has created of the diverse titles due out in the coming months. That’s right, you can no longer use the I am too busy argument. Kelly did your work for you.

Read on, think about the books you are promoting and make sure they reflect all experiences, and remember, we, the majority of librarians, [even the well meaning ones, even me], we are the problem. Let’s start working on being the solution.





If your job is to serve your community—and frankly, the excuse that your community is “all white” is a lie you keep telling yourself, perhaps in part because you’re simply welcoming one demographic over every other one—then you need to be reading diversely. One extremely simple way to do this is to read diverse books with an eye toward elevating them to a LibraryReads nomination. The LibraryReads lists, as you should be aware, are then distributed to librarians throughout the USA, helping them to better select and highlight great books for their patrons.
But if the lists continue to be all or primarily white—and even more frustrating, highlight the books that any good librarian is going to buy anyway since they’re by heavy-hitting authors—then the list serves no purpose for you as a reader, for you as a reader’s advisor, or for anyone else who picks it up. It’s merely a popularity contest.
“I don’t have time to read diverse books” is a statement borne of privilege and laziness, plain and simple. You do. Perhaps it means you prioritize reading one title by an author of color per month over something else you can pick up down the road. Perhaps it means you challenge yourself to do something more radical, like read a book by an author of color every three books you read. These are extremely simple changes that will pull you from your comfort zone, make you a better reader, and make you better aware of the reality of the community your serving and in turn, better serve that community. 

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