Diversity Audits - What's Your Why?

  • Elementary
  • High School
  • Middle School
Mary Moser

At the beginning of this school year, I came across posts and online webinars on about diversity audits in the library.  The practice of checking all books in your catalog for their representation of diversity as a whole collection. Then, comparing that to statistics to see what mirrors and windows you offer to your students as well as whose story is on your shelves.

The process of auditing my entire collection sounds daunting.  So far, the booksellers that I partner with don’t have anything created or identified in the way of diversity audits.  Part of me wanting to jump headfirst into the work and pull my catalog and start going book by book through the collection. And, I did.  Well, I got as far as pulling all my mystery books (since I genrefy) and through about 20 books. Then, classes started.  PD planning started. Student book club started. You get the picture.

Feeling overwhelmed, I let myself pause. In this pause, I realized that even if I managed to solely audit my 3000+ fiction titles, I didn’t have an answer for what next.

Just as important as the hard work of the diversity audit, I need to have goals for why I’m doing the audit.  Without that why, it’ll just be a box checked. I also need to figure out what I can handle and who I can partner with on the work.

WHY Diversity Audit

1.       I want to know who is walking in my hallways.  If you haven’t been pushed to focus on who walks the halls of your schools, a diversity audit will make you.  One of the pieces of the diversity audit asks you to compare the statistics of your collection to your patrons.  You can decide what the parts of your population are that you will track: race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ (note, you won’t know the exact data on this at your school given self-reporting of this stat.), disabilities, homelessness, poverty, etc.  The US Census and OSPI have some good starting places for stats at your school when you begin your reports.

2.       I want my shelves to not default to white. In doing my audit, I am going to pay attention to how I feel when the characters aren’t specifically called out for racial or ethnicity identities.  I want to stop myself from defaulting to “white” on my forms.  In connection with this personal check, I also want to make sure that my shelves are not overwhelmingly white. 

3.       I want to give myself permission to weed.  I have been doing a good job of weeding non-fiction each year…with a massive 30+ boxes shipped out last Spring…but I can do better.  In the process of looking at books, I am hoping to find the stories that were good back then, or acceptable back then, and weed them out of the collection. 

4.       I want to get buy in from other district colleagues.   I got permission to present on this topic and diversity in the library in August 2019.  I’m getting to follow up and include elementary in January at a training that I will lead.  I know that my overwhelming feeling about the size of the task could be lightened if I had others looking at books besides me.  If we all participated in this work, I believe we also would be taking a positive step in the direction of defining our positions in the district.

5.       I want to have a better working knowledge of the collection that I offer students. 

If I don’t see getting a large district buy-in, I will try to either reach out to my non-district colleagues to combine forces or I will try to adopt a smaller, manageable audit.  These are ways to attempt smaller audits: only certain bookshelves like a popular section or an overlooked checkout, audit book orders moving forward, audit your posters/displays, audit your programming.

Here's a link to a 2 page resource handout that I will be using my January presentation I highly recommend reading and reflecting on Karen Jensen's series of posts linked in the opening paragraph to start your journey!

*I did hear about one tool for those libraries serving younger populations.  Diversebookfinder, through a grant, has a free catalog audit tool that will allow you to submit your picture book collection and receive a diversity report for books they have examined since 2002.  So, if you’re looking for a help to start and you stock picture books, check them out.

  • data collection
  • diversity
  • library
  • representation matters
  • school library
  • windows and mirrors
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The opinions expressed by the CORElaborate Bloggers, guest bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD), Ready Washington or any employee thereof. PSESD is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Washington State Teacher Leader or Guest Bloggers.

Mary Moser Board

Library Media Specialist at Clover Park School District

I work as a high school Library Media Specialist in the Clover Park School District in Lakewood, Washington. This is my fifth year as a LMS, and my tenth year as a teacher.Before switching to the library, I taught 9th grade Humanities, which is the area that I certified in National Boards in 2013.

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