#OwnVoices Not Familiar to All

SLJ's Diverse Books Survey reveals that many librarians are not aware of the term and movement toward better representation.

While the term "diverse books" resonates with school and public librarians across the country, the #ownvoices movement does not have as much recognition. #OwnVoices is a term credited to author Corinne Duyvis, who suggested the hashtag on Twitter in 2015 to "recommend kidlit about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group."

It has since taken on a life of its own, building in recognition particularly over the last couple of years. Now, #OwnVoices books are a category that many publishers, authors, and illustrators focus on. But, according to SLJ's Diverse Books Survey results, the idea hasn't fully trickled down into the daily work of most librarians—especially in schools.

Overall, a little more than half of all librarians surveyed said they were familiar with the term, but breaking down the numbers between public and school librarians reveals a wide gap. While 72 percent of public librarians are aware of the phrase, only 52 percent of school librarians knew of it. (See  graphic with complete breakdown of numbers by type of library, type of school, and geographic location.) School librarians who responded wanted #OwnVoices noted in summaries and book reviews, so that finding the titles wasn't so time-consuming.

Kelli Reno, library media specialist at Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington, KY,  is among nearly three-quarters of all #OwnVoices-aware librarians who intentionlly seek those titles to add to their collections.

"I am very careful about making sure that I look for 'Own Voices' representation," wrote  Reno. "In many ways, it helps lend credit to a story and immediately counter[s] the critics. We all want to hear our stories told well, and I work hard to celebrate them all."

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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