Filling the Gaps: Diverse BookFinder on Collecting and Analyzing Depictions of BIPOC

Diverse BookFinder is a key resource for all those who seek to create book collections in which all children can see themselves -- and each other -- reflected in the picture books they read. The project has cataloged and analyzed thousands of children's trade picture books published or distributed in the U.S. since 2002 to establish a searchable database of depictions of BIPOC, including data on WHO is depicted and HOW.

Edelweiss and Diverse BookFinder recently partnered to give the project's librarian reviewers access to review titles on our site. In honor of that partnership, we spoke with the Diverse BookFinder team about the original goals of the project, the resources they offer, and how Diverse BookFinder has created "a community of practice" to implement its work.

What is the story behind Diverse BookFinder? When did the project begin, and what were its goals?

About 15 years ago Diverse BookFinder co-founders Krista Aronson and Anne Sibley O’Brien were looking for books to help local school children feel more comfortable interacting across racial/cultural differences. They were surprisingly hard to find. But, Krista and Anne were not deterred, together with then college student Brenna Callahan, they tackled the problem. Their goal was simple at the start: make it easier for everyone to identify and explore multicultural children’s literature.

How has Diverse BookFinder grown since its creation? What different resources does the project currently offer? 

Using grounded theory research the group worked to fill the gaps left by traditional metadata to develop a unique tagging system that is more responsive to the ways the people search for books featuring BIPOC characters. You can learn more about the metadata by visiting the Diverse BookFinder: a comprehensive collection of children's picture books featuring Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC). We've cataloged and analyzed trade picture books fitting this criteria, published since 2002, to surface and create:

  • A Unique Circulating Collection—The Diverse BookFinder collects all depictions of BIPOC in picture books. Anyone can check these books out at any time through Interlibrary Loan. This is the most heavily circulating collection in the Ladd Library with users from around the globe checking out and reviewing titles for purchase or use.
  • A Search Tool—The Diverse BookFinder offers a first-of-its-kind online, searchable database that makes it easier to locate and explore picture books featuring BIPOC characters. This is our most heavily used feature with approximately 11,000 users accessing it each month.
  • A Source of Critical Data—The Diverse BookFinder provides real-time data on WHO (which BIPOC character) is depicted and HOW they are depicted in diverse picture books.
  • A Collection Analysis Tool (CAT)—The Diverse BookFinder offers a free, online tool designed to help libraries analyze and diversify their picture book collections. Thousands of public and school librarians from 49 states across the US have used the CAT for collection development.

What challenges has Diverse BookFinder faced working towards its mission? How has the project navigated these obstacles?

In October 2021, the Diverse BookFinder was awarded an IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) National Leadership Grant to expand its collection of books for young people beyond picture books to also include early readers, chapter books, middle grade books, young adult books, and graphic novels. We’ve been working diligently to “reach up” to include all of children’s literature by revamping our metadata so that it captures stories for older audiences.

There are challenges to this work at every turn, for sure. One of our biggest is book requisition. This has been an ongoing challenge given the variety of publisher practices around book releases and digital review. We look forward to continued partnership with publishers to ensure their titles are identified and make their way onto the site.

In Fall 2022, Edelweiss and Diverse BookFinder partnered to give the project’s librarian reviewers access to review titles on the site. So far, how has the use of Edelweiss helped Diverse BookFinder in its work? 

We’re very proud of our partnership with Edelweiss, which has allowed us to streamline our processes and move into the world of reviewing digital book copies rather than print copies as we have in the past. We’ve created and trained a community of practice – a dedicated group of 72 trained library professionals from 31 states across the nation – to implement our expanded metadata on all books published in 2022 and 2023. This means that our books will be available for discovery and purchase by the Diverse BookFinder audience faster than ever before. Just one month into 2023 and our reviewers have already accessed and read more than 70 titles through Edelweiss.

How can publishers on Edelweiss better support Diverse BookFinder and contribute to its mission?

Publishers on Edelweiss can support Diverse BookFinder by continuing to provide downloadable and requestable DRCs to our community of reviewers.

Additionally, we hope that Edelweiss publishers can work to auto-approve the Diverse BookFinder Edelweiss+ community (Diverse BookFinder Reviewers) for their DRC files and that they will work together with us through Edelweiss+ to grant us access to DRCs for all titles within their purview that match the Diverse BookFinder’s collection criteria:

  • Titles for ages 3-17 which are classified as picture books, early readers, elementary or chapter books, middle grade, or young adult.
  • Fiction, Narrative Nonfiction, & Graphic Novels.
  • Published or distributed in the United States since 2019.

What makes you excited about the future of Diverse BookFinder? 

We’re so excited to continue working with our partners at Edelweiss and their publishers so that we can continue to grow the Diverse BookFinder and we’re thrilled for the opportunity to continue giving parents, teachers, librarians and young people the tools they need for finding and accessing diverse literature for children and young adults.

The Diverse BookFinder will roll out the expanded version of the website and Collection Analysis Tool (CAT) in Fall 2023. Based on anecdotal feedback, the new and improved site will be a smash hit with school librarians, public librarians, academic librarians, and more across the country!

Discover more about Diverse BookFinder at their website.