Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Understanding Your Local Community (Part 1)
Tomorrow as part of the Library Journal/School Library Journal training on diversity Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA (which you should do), I will be doing a presentation on doing a diversity audit. I will outline what a diversity audit is, how to do one, and what I learned doing mine. I will be sharing parts of that presentation with you here tomorrow.
As part of doing a diversity audit, I tried to develop an understanding of what a diverse/inclusive book collection might look like: I tried to develop target goals. This task was harder to conceptualize than I imagined; we all talk about the need for diverse YA collections but there isn’t a lot of discussion about what, exactly, that should look like in concrete terms. So as part of my research process I decided to do some community needs and assessment research. Who are the teens I’m serving is a foundational question. I wanted to know who my teens were in concrete terms so that I could make sure that every teen in my community who walked into my library could find a book that represented them. If part of building good collections is windows and mirrors, then I wanted to make sure that I had some solid information for the mirrors part.
We can all tell you, informally and anecdotally, a lot about the local communities we serve. But I wanted to take the deep dive into facts and figures to make sure what I thought I knew about the local community I served was in fact a realistic picture of that very community. So I did research, and a lot of it. And then I put it all together in a notebook (because you know I love me some notebooks) that I could consult and update and refer back to time and time again.
The information I looked for was curated into a table of contents that looks like this:
1. Basic Demographics
Comprehensive Population Profile
2. Housing Information – including owning vs. renting, single vs. multiple family dwellings, etc.
3. Overall Economy – including incomes and unemployment
5. Entertainment and Recreation – which outlines local resources that are good for networking
6. The State of Our Youth – here I looked specifically at the youth in my local community, including things like foster care, mental health, CPS stats and more
7. Crime Statistics
8. Overall Health
9. Physical Environment
Breakdown of the County
Key Community Facilities and Resources
10. Environmental Issues
11. Transportation – this includes a look at things like vehicle ownership, average lengths of commutes, and more
12. Community Strengths
13. Community Needs/Challenges
14. Additional Resources
In the Additional Resources category I printed off and curated a large volume of the same types of studies from other area agencies. For example, the health department had a pretty thorough investigation into these same types of questions and it was an invaluable resource, so I printed it off and put it in my notebook. The county itself has a county profile online. The Ohio Department of Youth Services had a statistical report of juvenile crime, so in it went. Other information included the basic U.S. Census data profile and the county sheriff’s office safety statistics.
I want to call special attention to the Knox County United Way Community Assessment because it was an incredibly useful tool and it provided a lot of the organization for my own outline.
All together, this information helped me to develop a more complete picture of the teens that I am serving at my library. Now instead of telling you anecdotally that I serve a primarily white community, I can tell you that I serve a community that is 96.7% white. Instead of telling you that a lot of my teens are economically challenged, I can tell you that 57.5% qualify for free and reduced lunch.
So this was the first part of really diving into the diversity audit, having a really comprehensive understanding of the local community in which I am serving. The next part is developing a better understanding of my collection to make sure I’m not just providing mirrors, but windows and doors and access to a richer, more realistic, more inclusive world view. Tomorrow, I will share with you the rest of my process.
About Windows and Mirrors
Complete YA Collection Diversity Audit Series
Filed under: Professional Development
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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