SF Public Library’s quest to put diversity on shelves (click image for link)

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The San Francisco Public Library system is beginning a new initiative to add diversity to its shelves; the push is coming mostly from the Children’s Books/Illustration collection development team.  San Francisco is a very diverse city, and much of the children’s literature on the shelves in this Library branch feature white protagonists.  The Librarians and Library workers of the SF Public Library system are making a priority to add more literature highlighting non-white protagonists in order for young adults and children to realize their full potentials.

“We work hard to ensure that the books and resources on our shelves mirror the diversity of our city…we believe it is important for everyone, especially children, to see themselves reflected in literature.”

In recent years, many institutions and industries have been realizing this long-standing idea that many of the popular culture characters in movies, books, video games, etc. have been white for a very long time.  Disney and Pixar began making the move with such films as Moana: a computer-animated musical fantasy comedy adventure film starring a Polynesian girl, Moana, as its main protagonist.  The Princess and the Frog is another example of the children’s film and television industry embracing different cultures and backgrounds (with a New Orleans native, Tiana, as the main character).

With the recent release of the film Hidden Figures, many young black girls (and boys) are realizing their potential.  They are realizing that it does not matter the color of their skin or the background they come from: anyone can do anything as long as they try.

There are many children’s books available that feature a wide assortment of characters of all different backgrounds, nationalities, and heritages; the SF Public Library system just needs to do a bit of digging in content and make room in their collection development budgets for much needed titles such as: Yangsook Choi’s The Name Jar, Loretta Seto’s Mooncakes, and Jenny Sue Kostecki-shaw’s Same, Same But Different.

A book by Cecil Castellucci particularly stood out in the back of my mind when reading this article and ruminating on the ideas of diversity in Children’s Literature.  Odd Duck is a tale of two ducks, though they are technically the same race (?), the book is about embracing the oddness in yourself and accepting the differences in others.  It teaches the lesson of empathy, understanding, and being open to these ideas even when you do not understand what another is going through.

Hopefully the SF Library system will secure the funding for this initiative and continue its mission in educating children of the diversities of the world, as well as the city they inhabit, an honorably mission indeed.

-Kelsey Gallagher, LIS-653, Wednesdays 1130-230

Lizzie Johnson. “SF Public Library’s Quest to Put Diversity on Shelves.” SFGate. SF Gate, 15 Jan. 2017. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

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by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information
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