The K-12 Library Connection: Building Inclusive Collections

Strategies, resources and professional learning for building inclusive library collections.

Building Inclusive Collections

It is book ordering season for many of us in the school library world, otherwise known as the most magical time of the library year! When you add those brand new books to your library shelves will ALL of your students see their unique identities, lived experiences and languages reflected in the stories and artwork? Will students experience differences in perspective that grow their understanding of the wider world?

Library collections are not inclusive and representative by accident. What are some strategies and resources you use to intentionally select titles representing identities and lived experiences that have been historically underrepresented and often misrepresented by the publishing industry?

In Denver Public Schools I had the wonderful opportunity to work with district librarians Terri Faulkner, Lori Micho and Amanda Samland to select and recommend new books to add to school library collections. We developed and piloted a Selection Audit process with the goals of strategically infusing libraries with inclusive titles and proactively correcting for representation gaps before purchasing. Click here to view the list of 2021-22 recommended titles curated by the DPS Collection Development team using our Selection Audit process.

How to Use a Selection Audit to Build Inclusive Collections

  1. Following your district selection criteria, add titles that you are considering for purchase to the Selection Audit spreadsheet.
  2. Gather information for each column of the spreadsheet: the main characters’ identities and lived experiences, background information about the books’ creators, genre, and additional rationale for selecting a title.
  3. Review your list as a comprehensive whole and look for representation gaps. Which voices are missing? Do your selections reflect contemporary experiences of underrepresented groups, not just historical experiences? Do your selections include books that depict people of color as empowered and joyful, rather than only in situations of trauma and struggle?
  4. Add and remove titles to create a wide variety of new books that accurately reflect the experiences of the students you serve and the wider world.

Interested in trying the Selection Audit process to guide your own purchasing? Click here to create your own copy of the Selection Audit spreadsheet. This work can be submitted as evidence for the Library Management credential for the Highly Effective Schools Through Libraries (HESTL) program.

Free and On-Demand Professional Learning About Building Inclusive Collections

Anti-Racist Education: Building Your Inclusive Collection & Curriculum​ 

Julia Torres, a teacher librarian in Denver Public Schools and a co-founder of #DisruptTexts, leads a conversation with authors Dr. Crystal M. Fleming, Bethany C. Morrow, and Aminah Mae Safi about creating more inclusive, representative and equitable curricula.

Building a Collection and Library Program That Celebrates Diversity and Inclusion

In this Future Ready Librarians® webinar hosted by Shannon McClintock Miller, teacher librarians from Baltimore County Public Schools and Denver Public Schools share how they build inclusive collections and library programs that acknowledge and celebrate diverse experiences through collection development, programming, and student outreach.

Compelling Media

Blog: We Need Diverse Books

Author Q&A, Book Recommendations, Cover Reveals and lots more!

Podcast: Jason Reynolds: How Can We Connect With Kids Through the Written Word? 

Award-winning author and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds speaks with NPR host Manoush Zomorodi about reaching kids through stories that let them feel understood.

Video Series: Shake Up Your Shelves

Award-winning children’s authors share advice on evaluating books to add to your collection with authentic stories of underrepresented groups.

Educator Guide: Shake Up Your Shelves: Why An Inclusive Bookshelf Is Important and How to Make It Happen

Includes questions to consider when adding new books, guidance on when to retire books from a collection and further reading and resources.

Idea Sharing

How are you building an inclusive library collection at your school? Other thoughts or questions? Share your ideas in the comments below or via our School Library Hotline listserv.

Suzi Tonini & Tammy Langeberg