Libraries nationwide have been reassessing their collections through the lens of diversity and equity. As Julie Stivers and Sandra Hughes-Hassell wrote on the YALSA blog in 2015, “focusing on diversity is not an extra facet of our job. It is central to what we do.”

Evanston Public Library is no different but coming up with an accurate assessment can be tricky. Historically, no library has ever kept track of the race of the authors and illustrators of books on the shelves in a systematic manner. We can eyeball the collection but locating strict numbers about how inclusive a collection is requires more hard dedicated work.  

That said, it is imperative that collections reflect the needs and wants of their communities, aligning with  social justice efforts, and we here at the library must strive to do everything we can to improve the number of diverse titles purchased on a daily basis.

One of the many ways I’ve been assessing the collection is to look at other libraries and what they’re doing.

The Madison Public Library has been a leader in these efforts. In 2014, the City of Madison undertook a deliberate, focused, and organized effort called the Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative. As part of that effort, Madison’s library created an extensive and exhaustive list of Racial Equity Resources.

I am pleased to announce that on my blog (Book Bird on the Library’s website, epl.org) we’ll be launching a new series in which we identify items from some of these different lists.

Today we examine a small selection from the Contemporary Adult Fiction list found on Madison Public Library’s Racial Equity Resources website.

Let me ask RoundTable readers: “How many have you read?”

“Delicious Foods: A Novel” by James Hannaham; ISBN 9780316284943; published 2015.
Held captive by her employers – and by her own demons – on a mysterious farm, a widow struggles to reunite with her young son in this uniquely American story of freedom, perseverance, and survival.

“Stand Your Ground” by Victoria Christopher Murray; ISBN 9781476792996; published 2015.
Janice Johnson’s 16-year-old son was murdered, and the shooter has not been arrested. Shelly Vance’s husband is facing murder charges for shooting a teenager who he says attacked him in a parking lot. This tragedy is magnified by the racial divide it has created. She wants to stand by her man, but she is keeping a secret that could blow the case wide open. Alax Wilson is the jury foreman. Faced with a dramatic trial that has turned into a media frenzy, Janice, Shelly and Alax are forced to face their own prejudices.

“The Fortunes” by Peter Ho Davies; ISBN: 9780544263703; published 2016.
“The Fortunes” recasts American history through the lives of Chinese Americans and reimagines the multigenerational novel through the fractures
of immigrant family experience.

“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid; ISBN: 9780151013043; published 2007
Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite “valuation” firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore. But in the wake of Sept. 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past.