Diversity Audit

Transcending Your Worldview and Internalized Biases

Karen Jensen said in her “Diversity Auditing 101: How to Evaluate Your Collection” for School Library Journal, “A diversity audit takes inventory and determines what’s in a collection and what areas need to be better developed. It yields concrete data. This type of audit helps put the science in library science.” I firmly believe that a diversity audit is important because as a 40-year-old white woman, I am the dominant demographic in librarianship, and I had lived under the assumption I was building an inclusive collection. By conducting a diversity audit, it made me honestly evaluate my collection, and as a result, my collection development practices are driven by data.

Here are some of the resources I drew from when preparing my diversity audit and then conducting it:

Once I began thinking about this, I also pulled race and ethnicity data for my school district and my campus. This data is publicly available on my school district website, and it is updated each year as student demographics change. Chances are, you can access this data too for your district and campus.

Frisco ISD Ethnicity
(Ethnicity Report – As of May 28, 2020)

  • White: 39%
  • Asian: 31.3%
  • Hispanic: 13.50%
  • African American: 11.2%
  • Two or more races: 4.45%
  • American Indian/Alaskan: 0.52%
  • Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0.07%

Other

  • Economically Disadvantaged: 13%
  • Languages Served: 72
  • Bilingual/ESL/Alternative Language: 8%
  • Gifted and Talented: 12%
  • Special Education: 10%

Reedy High School

  • Hispanic 11.22%
  • American Indian/ Alaskan native 0.67%
  • Asian 28.75%
  • Black 6.88%
  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.00%
  • White 48.60%
  • 2 or more 3.88%

Frisco ISD Facts & Figures

My Diversity Audit Resources

In preparing for my diversity audit, I asked two of my then senior student library aides to help me create the form we used. Then, those two students actually conducted a big chunk of the diversity audit. We pulled in a few NHS students who were also passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion and I had a library school mentee who also got excited about what we were doing and helped out too. Below is my actual form, then there is a form that you can copy to make your own and change it up to meet your specifications. I also have my diversity audit instructions that I would have on the cart for the people helping with it. I kept a cart with a laptop and scanner at the ready so each record in the spreadsheet for the book was connected to a book record. Below is a presentation with all my resources in this post as well.

Diversity Audit Results

As the results came in from our audit, which took months to collect as we were incredibly intentional about finding out as much as we could about each other and the character representation in the books, the data revealed that our collection was, in fact, not as inclusive as I had thought it was. After I had the data I needed, I developed a 5-year plan to purchase titles that would be representative of all the identities of the students in my school and in our community. I have asked for additional funds, am following people of all identities on social media, and curating resources from multiple sources to use to add the best diverse and #OwnVoices titles to our collection. Some of those resources can be found in an ABC-Clio & School Library Connection webinar I co-hosted with a Frisco ISD librarian colleague, Lesley Roane, called Inclusive Collections: A Frank Conversation about Diversity in Library Resources (Download the Webinar Handout.)

Next Steps

Since the completion of the diversity audit of our print fiction collection, I have started a separate audit of our campus ebooks and digital audiobooks. I am also working on weeding inaccurate or outdated books, and looking at representation because not all representation is a good representation. Also, I want to make ensure that not all titles with diverse characters or stories center on stereotypical or struggle scenarios. All students and all identities deserve to see themselves in stories of action, fantasy, horror, joy, mystery, science fiction, and romance.  By being aware of where I need to add healthy representation of all identities that affirms students’ experiences, it will also help people outside marginalized groups question and challenge harmful stereotypes.

A Word About Soft Censorship

I have a blog post here about LGBTQ Censorship in School Libraries. I was also a guest on an episode of the amazing Amy Harmon’s School Librarian’s United Podcast where I talked about soft censorship. Soft censorship is when decisions made in purchasing for our collections can sometimes reflect our bias or fears of challenges from parents or the community. For instance, as you are choosing a book for your school library collection, you tell yourself “I just don’t have the funds for this ____ book” or “I just don’t think this would be as popular as this other choice” when in reality the book is not being chosen to due to your bias or due to fear the book is “too controversial.”

Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors

As you strive to create an inclusive collection, try starting with just one shelf. Do one shelf a day. Recruit students or volunteers who are also invested in helping you create an inclusive collection that represents all identities in your school and community. I leave you now with the wonderful and wise words of Rudine Sims Bishop:

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books…

When there are enough books available that can act as both mirrors and windows for all our children, they will see that we can celebrate both our differences and our similarities, because together they are what make us all human.”

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