Building Diverse Library Collections at CMU

The CMU Library recently began an initiative designed to increase the number of books by diverse authors and about diversity-related topics in its collections. In keeping with the diversity standards set forth by Central Michigan University and the American Library Association, the library is committed to reflecting the varied interests, needs, and identities of its users through its book collections.

Working in collaboration with campus diversity offices, the library identified thirty-six diversity book awards celebrating the diverse racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities of our nation. While not an exhaustive list of all such awards, the library feels the list represents our varied CMU community. Each of these awards celebrates either a single book or multiple notable books in such areas as literature, children’s fiction, history, biography, current issues, and more. Examples of the awards included in the list of thirty-six are the International Latino Book Awards, the Stonewall Award, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and the American Indian Youth Literature Award.

The library will purchase the annual winners from each of the awards beginning in 2021. While purchasing past award winners is not part of this initiative, a quick check of the library catalog shows the CMU library already owns about 25% of past winners. Others may eventually be added through librarian selection or faculty and student purchase requests.

It is important for libraries to deliberately undertake initiatives like this because many publishers of multicultural and/or diverse books are smaller, independent publishers not regularly included in conventional library purchasing channels. Academic libraries acquire their books through a variety of purchasing plans and agreements with publishers, and these arrangements favor larger, mainstream publishers. To honor its commitment to representing diverse voices in its collection, a library needs to step outside its usual purchasing practices and take a more hands-on approach to collection building.

The library is excited about making these new materials available to library users. The books will play a supporting role in many areas of teaching and learning across the university. The CMU library is proud to support our university’s commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive community.

If you have any questions or would like more information about the awards included in this project please contact Tim Peters, Associate Dean of University Libraries at peter1t@cmich.edu.

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