In response to the feedback from students in children’s and young adult (YA) literature courses at the University of Florida’s College of Education as well as results from its three-year patron survey, The Education Library decided to employ research tools and strategies to assess the diversity of its collection. The Education Library already possessed a robust children and YA collection of approximately 13,000 titles appropriate for PreK-12th grade. Students suggested an increase in the number of books about diversity and/or featuring Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) as well as an increase in the number of recently published children’s books. This feedback led director of the Education Library, Rachael Elrod and education librarian Brittany Kester to examine their collection to see if they could improve representations in terms of identity markers such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability for children and YA.
The team at the Education Library started their analysis by conducting a catalog search with natural language terms related to race and ethnicity. A catalog search within the Children’s and YA Collection, narrowed to the subject of “African American” resulted in 450 books, which is roughly 4% of the collection. When the team searched for other racial and ethnic demographics, the search yielded similar or fewer results. Though these searches indicated the demographics represented in the collection, it did not go as far to show how they were represented. Ultimately, the team decided to utilize Diverse BookFinder (DBF), provided the database’s focus on BIPOC characters and its analysis tool of the diverse representation in children’s literature.
Researchers at Bates College designed DBF. It began as a content analysis project of diverse picture books, headed by Professor Krista Aronson, author/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien, and then senior thesis student Brenna Callahan. DBF consists of a searchable database of picture books published since 2002 featuring BIPOC characters. It also included a Collection Analysis Tool (CAT) the provides data on who is depicted in the books as well as how. Employing colon classification, the DBF Collection allows users to search for picture books and filter results using several broad facets: race/culture, tribal affiliation/homelands, ethnicity, immigration, gender, awards, religion, settings, content, and genre. An additional facet, “Categories,” provides information that describes the “dominant messages conveyed” within the books or how BIPOC characters are represented. These categories consist of:
- Any Child: Books in which a BIPOC main character is set in an everyday setting but their racial or cultural membership is not central to the plot.
- Beautiful Life: Books in which a BIPOC main character explicitly focuses on specific cultural components and are central to the plot.
- Biography: Nonfiction books about a person or group.
- Cross Group: Books portraying “relationships between named characters across racial or cultural differences.”
- Folklore: Books featuring the folklore of a particular group of people.
- Incidental: Books where BIPOC characters are nonprimary, secondary, or background characters.
- Informational: Nonfiction featuring BIPOC characters, but in which race or culture is not always central to the content.
- Oppression & Resilience: Books with BIPOC characters who experience injustice and/or struggle for justice.
- Race/Culture Concepts: Books that “explore and/or compare specific aspects of human difference.”
CAT provides deeper insight into how BIPOC characters are depicted in the books within the user’s collection, based on the nine categories provided. CAT compares ISBNs from the DBF collection to ISBNs from a submitted file and generates category information about the titles common in both collections. Providing a snapshot of who is represented in the collection, CAT allows the user to identify gaps in their collection related to BIPOC representation in their picture books. In order to run a CAT report, the user must submit an XLSX, CSV, or ODS file with a listing of ISBNs and titles in their collection to be analyzed with the DBF collection.
In their initial report from January 2020, The Education Library uploaded an XLSX file of 10,358 ISBNs of their children’s and YA collection to CAT. CAT recognized only 6,230 items, with 186 duplicates between the collections that could be analyzed.
The CAT report identified several places for improvement within the collection. For example, there were significant gaps in the collection, particularly within the Informational category, and the largest crosstab was at the intersection between “Black/African/African American” and “Oppression & Resilience” with 32 books. The largest category in the Education Library is “Beautiful Life.” Also, while “Black/African/African American” was the largest race/culture category, the smallest was “Middle Eastern/North African/Arab.” These results prompted the team at Education Library to immediately purchase 95 picture books in February 2020, using the categories and DBF collection search.
After adding the 95 picture books to our collection, they ran a second report to compare to their initial report, which apparently was missing hundreds of ISBNs after it dropped the leading zero in the ISBN. The CAT report recognized 322 duplicate results in the second report.
The CAT results prompted an increase in diversity of the Education Library Though they were not able to get a full snapshot of the diversity present in the collection, the Education Librarians we able to increase the number of contemporary BIPOC children’s picture books in their collection. A shortcoming of the CAT is its inability to provide information on the intersection of race and other categories in its metadata. Nevertheless, the Education Library was able to fulfill the information needs and desires of its users while using a database that implements aspects of colon classification, allowing for items, or in this case, books to be searchable and classified by facets.
- Diverse BookFinder: BIPOC Collection Development for Children’s and Young Adult Collections
- Diverse BookFinder
Avery Jonas (INFO 653-03)