While the U.S. population grows increasingly diverse, the books on our library shelves have not. Since 1994, an average of 10% of children’s books published contain multicultural content, while census data shows 37% of the US population identify as people of color. Since 2015, more than half of newborn babies in the US are children of color.
Because our library shelves can and must be as diverse as our readers, we will curate inclusive content.
Historically, most US library collections have been curated based on values and norms that reflect the economic, social, religious, racial, and cultural biases of the majority population. Open Libraries will engage diverse teams from the Digital Library Federation (DLF) and Digital Public Library of America’s Curation Corps to shape targeted lists of books from traditionally underrepresented communities. DLF has proposed the Inclusive Curation Project, a transparent selection process, with public feedback loops from diverse community panels. On a public website, community members can suggest books and weigh in on those selected by our librarians.
When we are done, we believe diverse communities will see their stories, now missing from library shelves, preserved forever.
Michael Connolly Miskwish is a Wikipedia Editor who is working with his Kumeyaay Tribe to re-write historical accounts to include Native American perspectives. At this edit-a-thon at the San Diego Public Library, only a few Native American histories were available on the shelves.
Miskwish says having more diverse books online would allow Wikipedia editors to tell a more culturally accurate story. Open Libraries envisions a day when every footnote could be a clickable link to a snippet right in an online book.
6th Grader in SF
Eileen is a straight-A student who loves to read and dance. Her favorite book is Esperanza Rising, about a Latina who must rise above the prejudice she encounters in Depression-era California. At her local library, Eileen checks out six books at a time and consumes them voraciously. She reports, “Sometimes after school I go to the library and look for books like Esperanza Rising, but there aren’t many books about girls like me. So I go find comic books! I love those, too.”
We have a chance to broaden Eileen’s reading material–and her horizons–with millions of diverse books that reflect stories like her own.