From our print magazine. New Product News delves into the world of library vendors, products, and services to find the standouts that combine innovation and quality.
January/February 2016Volume 55, No. 1
Zetta Elliott is working with the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School to produce an anthology of middle-grade student writing. Maybe the anthology will be picked up by a mainstream publisher, maybe it won’t. It doesn’t really matter to Elliott. For her, the solution to the lack of diversity in children’s books is simple: Stop begging at the doors of traditional publishers and publish diverse books yourself. It sounds lofty, but thanks to the explosion of digital publishing tools, it’s now possible for just about anyone to publish a professional-looking book—simply and affordably, online or in print.
According to the United States Census Bureau, as of 2014, the estimated Hispanic population is 17.4 percent of the total 319 million U.S. population.1 Not every one of those individuals who classify themselves as Hispanic or Latino speaks Spanish. However, according to a 2015 report released by the prestigious Instituto Cervantes, “The United States is now the world’s second largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico.”2 The U.S. has forty-one million native speakers and eleven million who are bilingual.3 Those are some serious numbers and public libraries are at the forefront of assisting many of these Hispanics with whatever resources they have available. Many Spanish speakers go to public libraries to look for answers regarding a path to citizenship, questions about the I-90 form, services offered for Spanish speakers, and my favorite, “¿Donde tienes tus libros españoles?” (“Where do you have your Spanish books?”) Publishing companies are doing their best to cater to this large community, but answer this question: Even with more Spanish books readily available, who are the librarians assessing community needs and building these Spanish and bilingual collections? It is one thing to be a Hispanic librarian, as I am, but it is another to truly understand the Hispanic community to know how a collection should be built.
As much as I love my local library, it has become predictable in its timing and placement of diverse books. In February, I can always count on seeing a large selection of books promoting Black History Month. Many of these titles I’ve never seen throughout the year, but because it’s Black History Month, there they all are, standing proud, front and center. The same is true for National Hispanic Month from mid-September to mid-October, Asian Pacific American month in May, and American Indian Heritage month in November. For the other eight months of the year, the displays are filled with the usual books featuring white characters or happy-friendly animals.
There are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer children and families in every service community in the country. While libraries all across the country serve queer people in various ways, most likely still rely on heterosexuality and cisgender as defaults. That is, the norms that govern straight people, normal families, and people whose gender expression matches their birth sex.