This mini-institute gave me a lot of excellent information about diverse books, authors, and #ownvoices, which naturally helped reinforce the importance of doing a diversity audit. Unfortunately it did not really provide any practical “how-to” information to help me understand exactly how to do a diversity audit. I’ve google’d around a bit and stumbled across a few School Library Journal posts and blogs about diversity audits, but again, I have not really found any comprehensive practical guides. So I am figuring it out as I go, and figured I’d write about my process here. There may be better ways to do this, but this is the way I have come up with, and so far it seems to be working!
**I think a diversity audit, much like a genrefication, makes more sense after your collection has been weeded, since it means fewer titles to audit. However, the case could also be made for doing it before weeding because you could then use the audit info to help in deciding if a book should be weeded of not**
Why do a Diversity Audit?
First I think it is important to do some PD on the We Need Diverse Books movements, if you are not already familiar with them. In this blog post I am not going to cover the reasons it is important to intentionally, and even aggressively, be working to diversify our collections. That conversation could really take up an entire blog series of its own, so I’m going to proceed here with the assumption that the reader already agrees with the necessity and is just looking for a guide to help get started on a diversity audit! If you need more information on why its important to build diverse collections, check out the linked sites above.
You may also want to google around a bit to read up more information on Diversity Audits in general, before you proceed. I believe a diversity audit is a critical step in building truly representative collections, because no matter how well we think we are doing at this, I promise that our unconscious biases are getting in our way, without us knowing.
We may think we are building representative collections, but we need concrete data to be sure. There is a reason that the Master of Library & Information Science is a master’s science degree. Librarianship is a science, and data and research should be the fuel driving our collection development, and other, decisions and goals. Regardless of whether you have the MSLIS degree or not, you’re here because you are ready to jump into the science of a diversity audit. Yay! So let’s get to it.
Choosing Your Categories
After you have decided to move forward, and have gathered your initial background information, it is time to choose your categories. Meaning you need to decide what types of diversity and representation you want to account for in your audit. It can be as simple as just a couple categories like: Author/character ethnicity: white, BIPOC, lgbtqia+, straight/cis, etc or it can be more comprehensive.
I chose to do a very, VERY comprehensive audit instead of a simple one, so I currently have 36 different categories. One reason I decided to be comprehensive is that I have committed my professional goal for this year to being truly aggressive about decentralizing whiteness and decolonizing my practice, myself, and my library collection. I also figured that since, no matter how many categories you audit for, you still need to analyze every single book individually, it makes sense to do as many categories as you want. I am always of the mind that if you are going to take the time to do something then you might as well do it the right way (or comprehensively) so you don’t have to go back and do it again later. I also had some categories that I knew would be of particular interest to many of my students, such as “1st generation american,” “immigrant,” “biracial,” “adopted,” etc. Here are the categories I chose to audit for:
- white (or assumed white)
- gender/gender identity
- **I initially included “diverse,” “ownvoices,” and a few other categories that I have since ceased using as I have learned more and learned they are not the best way to identify representation
- Main Characters:
- Initial Identity markers
- Additional Identity Markers
- Initial Identity markers
Run Your Copy/Titles Report
I am choosing to record my data collection in an excel spreadsheet instead of inputting everything directly into destiny at first. I will be uploading the information from the spreadsheet into Destiny when I am finished. I decided to work in the spreadsheet directly at first because it is much faster than having to open up and manually alter every single MARC record. Its quicker for me to annotate a spreadsheet and then use the spreadsheet later to create .txt files that I can upload directly into Destiny. I will do that at the end to add each of my data points to the copy records as copy categories. I’ll go into that part more in depth further down the blog post.
- Run Your Report:
- Go to “report builder”
- Run a report showing all copies
- Include barcode, title, author,
- If you are genrefied using sublocation, you may want to include sublocation on your report
I run the report showing all copies so that I can easily create .txt file barcode lists later which will make it easy to batch update the records in destiny when I am finished. I include sublocation in the report because my library is genrefied, and the genre is indicated by sublocation. Including that on the report allows me to “chunk” my collection so I can do my diversity audit one genre at a time. It also allows me to run data as I go on how diverse each genre is. This is important because I suspect most of my diverse titles are going to be found in the realistic genres, while my fantasy, scifi, and mystery genres are probably much less diverse. I’ll need that info to help me move forward with intentional purchasing this year.
Run your report as an excel spreadsheet so you can filter and add columns!
Set Up Your Spreadsheet
Now that you have your report showing your books, you can add columns for each category you want to audit for. Here is how mine looks, you can see that the colorful columns are the ones I added to the report I ran from destiny.
Now, if you doing your audit by genre, you’ll want to filter the results so it only shows one genre at a time. You do this by selecting the row showing your categories and then go up to the top of the spreadsheet to click the “sort & filter” button. All of the column headers will now show a white square with an arrow in it (seen above). You can click on the arrow for the sublocation column and then deselect “select all” and only select the genre you want to start with. You’ll notice that the spreadsheet now only shows books within the chosen genre. You can later remove this filter by selecting the “sort & filter” button again at any time.
Start Auditing / Researching
Now that everything is set up, it is time to go through the list one book at a time, filling out the audit report. I used a plethora of tools for this. But first I went through and filled out the ones I knew off the top of my head (lord of the rings, harry potter, etc). Then I went back to the top and worked my way down one at a time.
I relied most heavily on goodreads, but I also had to use google a lot to dig deeper. I start by pulling up the book on goodreads and scanning of “ctrl+F”ing to look for keywords such as “diverse,” “poc,” “lgbt,” “ownvoices,” “disability,” etc. If I did not think I found everything I needed then I went into google and searched things like “book title + diversity rep“or “book title +lgbt” or “author name + diversity” or “author name + ethnicity/lgbt” and etc.
As I went through each book I just noted my findings by entering a “1” into the cell on excel for that category. Once I got into a groove, I found that I went through an entire genre pretty quickly! Use a “1” to indicate your findings so that later you can utilize functions and formula to pull the data!
Note that I chose to only include representation for characters who are main POV characters. I did not note information for side characters. This is because I feel authors sometimes resort to token representation in their supporting cast instead of the main, center stage, character being a member of diverse communities and representation. I did not want side characters or tokenization to skew my results into looking more diverse than they are. I recommend only including info from the book’s MAIN POV character as a way to ensure you are getting a snapshot of which identities and communities are being centered in your collection.
Please note, also, that prior to 2016ish, it was pretty common for a character or authors identities to not be explicitly stated. This can make auditing older titles more complicated and imperfect than auditing newer titles. In the past (and even still this is a common issue) it has been typical for characters and authors to be “assumed white,” or “assumed straight,” or “assumed cis,” etc unless otherwise specified. For this reason, when you are auditing, especially older books, you will often need to resort to taking a “best guess” on how to record your data. This is the reason I have recently changed my audit results from saying “white” to saying “white or assumed white” and so on, as there are many times when my research didnt allow me to find an author or characters information explicitly stated. When in doubt I tend to mark the info as the assumed default because I figure that the worst thing that can happen in the event I’m wrong in my assumption, is that my data will appear less diverse than it really is. And there is really no harm that can come from thinking my collection is less diverse than it is, since all that means is that I’m likely to purchase more diverse books. Id rather my data be wrong in that direction than have it appear more diverse than it is, since that could result in me becoming more complacent in my intentional diversification efforts. So, moral of the story is, you will not always be able to actually find explicit reference to all the identitiy and representations present in your collection. You will often need to resort to “best guess” and that is completely ok. REmember that the purpose of an audit is not to perfectly account for every identity and representation present in your collection. You are not trying to create a perfect document that perfectly lists every aspect of every author and character. That is not the point of the audit, and that should not be your goal. You cannot do that, because people cannot be, and should not be, labeled so definitively. The audit is merely intended to help give you a snapshot look at the general state of your collection. To give you a baseline to work off of to help you in developing an ever more inclusive and representative collection.
Download My Audit Info
Please note that I have now removed my audit document from my blog, and am no longer offering this for download. I originally intended to offer my data but I have changed my mind on this in response to the recent occurrences in publishing and book world where authors are being bullied and forced to “out” themselves before they are ready. It no longer feels safe for the authors for me to publish a document that lists all the aspects of their identities I think I’ve successfully located online. Additionally, the document becomes outdated because authors identities often come out later, after my findings are put on the blog, and then people using my document could be getting the incorrect and outdated info from my findings. It started to feel like having my document available publicly online could cause more harm to authors, and I think its important that I not in any way add to the bullying and aggression many of them are facing in light of being accused of not being “ownvoices” enough to tell certain stories.
Please remember that the purpose of doing an audit is to get the overview data on your collection, so that you can use that data to drive your decisions going forward on what books to add to your collection. The purpose is not to try to perfectly capture every identity aspect of an author so that you can publish or publicly acknowledge that personal information.
Reporting Your Findings
Once you finish filling out your audit, you’ll next want to compile, analyze, and report your findings. I chose to do this by converting my data into graphs. I have never been much of a numbers person, so the visual component of graphs helps me personally to evaluate the numbers. Graphs are also more successful for sharing on social media, in newsletters, PD sessions, etc.
In order to gather my numbers, I used the “sort & filter” function in excel again. I went through each column one at a time and filtered out the blank cells so that I could capture the number of “tallies” each column/category has. I then input those numbers into a free chart creator I found on google called meta-chart.com. Here are my initial charts:
Add Your Data to Destiny (If you want to)
If you are planning to add your data directly to the destiny records, there are a couple different ways to do that. Some people add the data right into the MARC records. I am still figuring that part out, and figuring out whether that is something I want to do.
I am definitely adding the data to my copy records via copy categories. I am doing this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, patrons can easily browse by copy category, so students looking for books with a specific type of diversity will easily be able to do so on the search page of destiny. Additionally, having the info as copy categories makes it easy to run reports with that info later. It is also very easy to add copy categories in batches using barcode lists, resource lists, sublocation, etc. It is also easy to add them as you catalog new books into destiny. I am a huge fan of copy categories, personally. I use them all the time, even more then I use resource lists of collections.
To create your copy categories go to the “catalog” page and select the “copy category tab.”
Next, add each of your audit categories as a copy category.
Create a .txt file barcode list for each audit category
I do this by going through my excel sheet one column at a time. One by one I filter the spreadhseet by each audit category (column). Then I copy the barcode list and paste it into editpad.org and save it.
Use barcode list .txt file to batch update Destiny records
What I learned or What I’ll Change
One thing I know I’ll change is that I will be adding more category columns for the author diversity. My current categories check thoroughly for character diversity inputs, but the author categories are limited to essentially diverse vs nondiverse. I want to have more specific data on the authors so I’ll be adding more categories for that.
Happy Diversity Audits, everyone!
I will update this blog post, or maybe write more posts, as I progress further into my audit process. So far I’ve got about 15% of my fiction collection audited!
If you like my graphic, check out my zazzle store in the link below!