How does a diverse collection support your young patrons?
A diverse collection has “cultural diversity…[which] includes shared characteristics that define how a person lives, thinks and creates meaning,” (Naidoo, 2014) which also includes social factors like sexual orientation, etc. that create a person’s unique culture. In other words, a diverse collection shows young patrons that their perspective is just one part of a very large whole – a world made up of billions of lives and perspectives. One of the most important results of a collection that contains these multitudes is giving patrons a sense of value; they matter because their stories matter.
Representation is key in appealing to readers of all ages; if they cannot see themselves in the books available to them, they will be less engaged and feel undervalued and alone. According to a 2013 study questioning if school libraries were providing enough adequate LGBTQ-themed literature, the answer was a resounding no. LGBTQ youth are high risk, but this can be tempered by libraries providing diverse collections, as “research…shows that the library is ‘the most important information source’ for LTBTQ people” and “LGBTQ-themed literature provides LGBTQ teens with the opportunity to understand what it means to be queer…to know they are not alone, to connect with others like them…to affirm the fact that they are normal,” (Hughes-Hassell, Overberg & Harris, 2013). And so, providing LGBTQ literature for patrons struggling with their sexual orientation will prove to them that they have value because they are being acknowledged through representation.
Representation is also important because it allows young patrons to see themselves in a positive light. The article “Criteria for the Selection of Young Adult Queer Literature” by Stephanie R. Logan argues to “…select queer literature that enhances languages and cognitive development in the language arts by providing a variety of vocabulary structures and forms” (p. 32). This can come in the form of narratives where people who are gay, gender-fluid, gender non-binary, etc. all have stories with a character of that specific sexuality where it is not the only facet of their character. A LGBTQ protagonist can be portrayed positively simply by having “…opportunities in which basic human rights are embraced and not denied,” (Logan, p. 33). Creating a criteria of literary value mixed with positive representation can result in a stronger collection in YA literature for a group who are struggling to understand themselves in the throes of adolescence.
Hughes-Hassell, Sandra, Overberg, E. & Harris, G.S. (2013). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ)-themed literature for teens: Are school libraries providing adequate collections? School Library Research, AASL. 16, 1-18.
Naidoo, J.C. (2014). The importance of diversity in library programs and material collections for children. Association for Library Service to Children, ALA.
Logan, S. R., and Lasswell, T. A. (2014). Criteria for the selection of young adult queer literature. English Journal, High School Edition; urbana 103.5. 30-41.