I am an elementary school librarian in an urban setting in Massachusetts. Through the work of creating a more representative and inclusive library collection for my students, I learned a lot about the politics of the publishing industry, the accepted institutional racism and purposeful exclusion of communities in books and that we should be outraged at the continued disenfranchisement of our children.
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

What an Inspirational Conference!

If you look back to my first post on this blog, I attended an *awful*, yet inspirational conference in 2012 which rocketed me into my current passion of having a "reflective library".

Me with Walter Dean Myers!
Well, last week, I went to an *awesome* and inspirational conference at the JFK Library in Boston called, "To Light the World: Stories of Hope and Courage in Challenging Times".  The focus of the conference was how to use literature to aid conversation and action. Speakers included Doreen Rappaport and Walter Dean Myers (I know, right?!). As you can imagine hearing them speak on such a topic was edifying.

Luckily, the subject of publishing was broached and the speakers had somethings to say...
Doreen Rappaport spoke to the fact that she would like to publish books on less well known figures, but the publishers will not allow this to happen because of (drum roll...) MONEY! Making money, that is...you know, "the bottom line". Her quote was "publishers are cowardly", dictated by their purse strings.

Why is this?
It at least has partly to do with the current market. As libraries lose funding and brick and mortar book stores disappear, consumers will most likely "buy what they know", the serendipity aspect of book browsing in the stacks has all but vanished. It is risky to feature a new author, new subject or anything out of the mainstream because where will readers find it?

What can we do?
I think we can certainly support authors, books and bookstores that feature books that aren't "mainstream" but this is assuming that the books are being published. Sure, some are, check out publishers like Lee & Low and their imprints as well as Candlewick Press and other small publishing houses, however we know these are but drops in the proverbial bucket.

Walter Dean Myers had a pretty radical idea in regards to publishing that I would love to see some movement around. He believes that we as a COMMUNITY need to put pressure on less typical publishing houses such as university presses. Could a Harvard type university begin publishing books with characters of color? Walter Dean Myers thinks so- he believes the money and need is there. Now we just need to make some noise...

Mr. Meyers (reread his NYT OpEd here) closed out his session with this:
"No matter what the problem is, the individual is the answer...We need to reengage children in their own salvation."
Amen. Let's start this revolution and have our children lead us!

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