Blogger Maria Trivisonno

Curating Community Collections

I’ve written about a lot of books on this blog.  My last post was about books featuring Lunar New Year.  I’ve discussed poetry, correct name pronunciation, food, etc.

Today I get to do something new.  I get to discuss a book written by people I know. 

Curating Community Collections is the second book for both of them, and the first that they have written with a partner.  The impetus for the book was their work in collection development following a diversity audit of the CCPL collection.  For those unfamiliar with the term, a diversity audit is an evaluation of an existing collection to see how diverse your titles are and where gaps are in the collection.  (Fellow blogger Chelsey Roos has a great blog post about it here.)  After the CCPL diversity audit, Bartlett and Schreiber reached out to collection development colleagues in similarly large systems to find out what other libraries did with the results. The most common answer? Do another diversity audit later.

Courtesy of Mary Schreiber
Courtesy of Wendy K. Bartlett

Wendy K. Bartlett is the Collection Development and Acquisitions Manager for Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL), where I also work.  Mary Schreiber, at the time of this writing, is concluding her time as a Collection Development Specialist with a focus on youth and world languages.  Next week she starts a new adventure as a Branch Manager, still at CCPL.  In full disclosure, they are not only my colleagues but my friends.

Sensing the need for actionable steps to make collections more inclusive following a diversity audit, Bartlett started researching and Schreiber—whose name might be familiar due to a long involvement with ALSC—started reaching out to colleagues around the country.  Curating Community Collections aims to help librarians understand their diversity audit results, learn how to increase diverse items in their collections, help ensure those items are found by library customers, advocate for diverse collections to other library leadership, and protect the diverse collections from censorship.

Schreiber’s outreach led to “Perspectives from the Field” at the end of each chapter.  These sections allow librarians of all ilk to describe how they tried to diversify collections, what worked, and what didn’t.  The authors wanted to ensure Curating Community Collections was valuable to libraries of all sizes and types, school, public, academic, and special.  As Bartlett put it, both authors were very aware that they are both “middle class, middle aged, Midwestern white women” who approached this topic with cultural humility and wanted to give voice to more diverse perspectives. Interviewing other professionals led to some poignant discussions.  Schreiber relates a conversation with a Synagogue librarian who longed for “Harry Potter with Jewish themes,” lamenting that most books with Jewish characters are historical or focus on holidays (and relatively minor holidays like Chanukah at that!). 

Bartlett’s research led to an extensive bibliography; 16 pages of additional resources that can hopefully help library students easily discover resources on specific diverse collections. 

As libraries face more challenges than ever it’s important to articulate why diverse collections are needed, know how to market diverse books, have the means to defend them, and avoid self-censorshipCurating Community Collections is one more tool to help.  

This post addresses the ALSC Core Competencies of I. Commitment to Client Group, IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials, and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

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