It would be good to acknowledge upfront that an able bodied, white cishet neutral is assumed in society and in publishing, and, for that reason, "diversity" is the imperfect umbrella term used to bring perspectives other than that assumed neutral into focus. Our goal is to make our collections as inclusive as possible.
Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. – Verna Myers, ILA 2017
Diversity: Having a wide variety of representations, a variety of experiences and points of view; a book written that includes a diverse characters or points of view by any author. For example: The Chains series by Laurie Halse Anderson
Own Voices: An author from a marginalized or under-represented group writing about their own experiences. For example, Matt de la Pena, Brandy Colbert
Statistics | Diversity in YA
The Diversity Baseline Survey | Lee & Low Books
Infographic Series: The Diversity Gap | Lee & Low Books
SLJ Resources for Diversity in Kid and YA Lit | School Library Journal
We Need Diverse Books
Audit Audit: an official inspection of an individual's or organization's accounts, typically by an independent body.
A diversity audit is basically doing an inventory of a collection to determine the amount of diversity within the collection. It’s a way of analyzing collection data to make sure that we include a wide variety of points of view, experiences and representations within a collection. Our goal is to provide a well balanced collection that can be both a mirror (reflect a reader’s experience) and a window (so readers can experience different experiences). See: Windows and Mirrors: Why We Need Diverse Books
Before doing an audit, it’s helpful to determine target goals. This was harder than I thought, so I used some of the above information (Background Information) to help me set realistic target goals. I also used U.S. and World Census data.
According to the U.S Census Info for 2016, the U.S. population can be broken down into the following percentages:
Native Americans/Alaska Natives
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander
Americans with Disabilities (under 65)
Americans Identifying as LGBTQ
3.5% (0.3% identify as transgender)
Things to keep in mind: These are population estimates based on how various respondents self-report in limited categories given to them; there are estimations involved; personal identity and labels aren’t as easy as simple statistics and data lead one to believe. In addition, not all people within a group of the same experiences or stories so we need to have a wide variety of stories. And finally, diversity is intersectional, people identify in more than one way – for example a woman of color may also identify as LGBTQ – which makes diversity more complex than a simple audit would lead one to believe.
● Diverse Representation:
o Indigenous representation
o Asian representation (broken down by geographic location) o People of Color (black/African American)
o LatinX representation (broken down by geographic location)
● Refugees and new immigrants
● Gender roles/Gender bias
o Transgender o Asexuality
● Family structures
o Same sex parents
o Interracial families
o Blended families
● Adoption and foster care
● Homeless or without stable accommodation
● Socio economic diversity
o Impaired hearing
o Impaired sight or sight loss o Limb loss
o Use of aids
● Neurological challenges o Autism
● Mental health/Illness
● Children with allergies and food intolerances
● Children with complex health concerns such as cancer, terminal illnesses and those undergoing treatment.
● Culture and Religion
o Christian o Hindu
o Muslim o Wiccan
Two Types of Audits to Perform:
An overall collection audit, which should be done on a yearly basis (or every few years if you develop the practice of doing book order audits)
A book order audit, which should be done on each book order before you submit them for purchase
Please note: This is my process. You may develop a process that works better for you. My process has changed over time and I like having a saved database as opposed to a simple tally sheet. But at its most basic, a simple tally sheet works. I have found it depends on what type of ILS your library system has.
Doing the Initial Audit: Collecting the Data
The first step is to go through and do a manual count of each title in our collection, indicating what, if any, types of diversity are represented are in the title. This is the most time-consuming part of the process and involves a lot of research. You want to be as thorough as possible.
Analyzing the Data
Now comes the math part. If you are using Excel, it will do the counts for you. If not, you must count by hand. Either way works.
Numbers you need:
Total number of titles in your collection
Total number of titles in each of your categories
Then you calculate the percentage. In the end, you will have an idea of what percentage of your collection is represented in each category.
You can then compare these to your target numbers to decide if you are comfortable with where you are at or if you need to go in and order specifically to meet your goals.
Formula: Number of Titles in Category X Divided by Total Number of Titles in Collection = Percentage of Collection Represented by Category X
Total number of titles in collection: 1394
Total number of titles that have POC characters in the collection: 289 Percentage of the collection that has POC representation: 20.7%
289 divided by 1394 is 20.7%
How I Use this Information
I use this information to make sure that my YA collection isn’t overwhelmingly white cishet male/female with no characters with disabilities. When I find gaps, I go through and do targeted orders. For example, this summer I worked really hard to increase the number of LGBTQAI+ in my collection. I went through each letter and found lists of reputable titles and checked them against my collection. My LGBTQAI+ numbers went up from 2.3% to 5.7%.
As an added benefit, when a teen comes in asking for a specific type of book, I have a better ready list in my brain that I can quickly recommend.
Doing a Book Order Audit
I do the same process in an informal way for each book order before submitting it. I print it off, make notes in the margins, and make sure that my book order isn’t overwhelmingly white cishet.
● Complete Collection Audit: Yearly
● Book Order Audit: Whenever you order
● Sectional Audit: Develop a schedule that works for you. For example, because June is Pride Month, I go through and do a LGBTQAI+ collection audit in April to make sure I have a good number of titles for the month.
What types of representation will you consider? For example, must it be the main character or is a secondary supporting character going to count in your tallies. You can have extended categories for this if you would like.
Not all representation is necessarily good representation. This is an important point to consider when doing your collection audit. This is also why keeping a separate category for Own Voices is important. Some tropes to be aware of and look for include:
● The Noble Savage
● The White Savior
● The Magical Negro
● The Mystic Shaman
● Killing the Gays
The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.
Some stereotypes you’ll want to look for include:
● The angry black woman
● Youth of color always being depicted as gang members
● Jewish books always being about the Holocaust
● POC books always being about slavery or the Civil Rights movement
● LGBTQ books always being about coming out
● Refrigerating females
● Unlikeable girls
● “Not Like Other Girls”
Stereotype: a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing
Resources: 5 YA Tropes To Avoid; TV Tropes; Not Like Other Girls: Toxic Archetypes of Young Adult Literature; Really Useful Links for Writers: Tropes and Clichés
Remember to examine your own internalized biases and privilege.
This is where being involved in the YA community can be of great assistance. There are a lot of great people sharing titles on Twitter and other social media that has raised my awareness of Own Voices authors.
Kirkus is now including ethnicity/race of characters in every YA review and that Novelist is a good resource for finding author ethnicity.
Your audit is only as good as your research. If you don’t put in the effort to really examine each title, you won’t necessarily have good numbers.
Diversity in YA (General)
We Need Diverse Books | Official site of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks
Book Lists | Diversity in YA - www.diversityinya.com/category/book-lists/
Diversity in Young Adult and Middle Grade (1351 books) - Goodreads
31 Young Adult Books With Diverse Characters Literally Everyone
Diversity YA Life: Diverse Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror - The Hub
Diversity YA Life: Urban Fiction - The Hub
Rich in Color | Reading & Reviewing Diverse YA Books - richincolor.com/
Diversify YA Life: Horror with Diverse Characters
Asian American Protoganists
Best Asian-American Teen Fiction (156 books) - Goodreads
A Round-Up of Awesome Asian American Protagonists in YA Lit
11 Young Adult Novels By Asian-American Authors - Bustle
Latinx Ya Shelf - Goodreads
13 Upcoming YA Books By Latinx Authors To Start Getting Excited
9 Books By Latinx Authors I Wish I Had As A Teenager - Bustle
Latinxs in Kid Lit - https://latinosinkidlit.com/
Native American Representation
#OwnVoices Representation: Native American Authors - YA Interrobang
Teen Books With Native American Characters and Stories (66 books)
Some thoughts on YA lit and American Indians - American Indians in Children’s Literature/Debbie Reese
Books Outside The Box: Native Americans - The Hub
Teen Books by Native Writers to Trumpet Year-Round | School Library
10 Diverse Books by YA Authors of Color to Read in 2017 | Teen Vogue
Faces of Color on 2017 YA Books - Book Riot
12 Young Adult Novels With POC Protagonists - Bustle
14 YA Books About LGBTQ People of Color - The B&N Teen Blog
YA Pride (formerly Gay YA) : YA Pride (@YA_Pride) | Twitter
30 Essential LGBT Books for YA Readers - AbeBooks
100 Must-Read LGBTQIA YA Books - Book Riot
23 of Our Most Anticipated LGBTQA YA Books of 2017 - The B&N
72 Must-Read YA Books Featuring Gay Protagonists - Epic Reads
50 Crucial Feminist YA Novels - The B&N Teen Blog
34 Young Adult Books Every Feminist Will Love - BuzzFeed
100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader | Bitch Media
YA Books Central - www.yabookscentral.com/
Teen Reads - www.teenreads.com
Book Riot - www.bookriot.com
Barnes and Noble Teen Blog - www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/
YA Interrobang - www.yainterrobang.com
YA Lit - www.yalit.com
Epic Reads - www.epicreads.com
Pop Crush – www.popcrush.com
Bustle - www.bustle.com
Adventures in YA - www.adventuresinya.com