By Dana Friedman, School Librarian
A topic that has surfaced repeatedly in the library world is the importance of offering a diverse collection. Specifically, is it paramount to have a book collection that showcases diverse points of view, and if so, how important is it?
School Library Journal (SLJ) recently set out to answer this question, surveying school and youth librarians, and publishing several follow-up articles. This topic has also been popular on several library listservs, and in conversations among librarians.
SLJ found that the majority of librarians feel it is important to maintain a book collection for children and teens with protagonists and experiences that feature underrepresented ethnicities, disabilities, cultural or religious backgrounds, and gender nonconformity. Many librarians feel that this kind of collection is especially crucial today as racism and anti-Semitism continue to impact the nation.
What do these findings mean for the library at Hillel? We believe that it is important to have our library collection represent not only our school community, but our entire world. In doing so, children might find both windows and mirrors in the library – books that represent their lives, including books in English and Hebrew, and books that allow them to see how it might be to live like someone else. Fortunately, at Hillel we are able to continually build a diverse book collection for all ages.
Recently, our library purchased several picture books told from the perspective of those who are economically disadvantaged, specifically the homeless. We also acquired books that have protagonists who are immigrants or refugees; teacher Lauren Sterling is going to read these with her 8th graders.
Can books really change the world? It certainly can’t hurt for students to read books about others and empathize with their experiences. If we can’t put people physically together due to geographical or other distances, we can at the very least share and learn from other people’s stories, and engage in conversation and reflection about them. My hope is that our students will pick up new and existing books at Hillel, and become passionate, lifelong readers. In so doing, we will encourage empathy, tolerance and understanding.