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Diversity and inclusion in libraries: three examples of good practice

The smell of new and older books, the joy of browsing row upon row of titles and the excitement of connecting with people who share our literary preferences: whether we’re young or old, the library is a place where we come together to lose ourselves in good literature. But how can a library make itself even better for everyone? How can a library become more diverse and inclusive? Let’s share three examples of good practice that have already been adopted by some libraries.

Help your visitors find diverse and inclusive books

Nowadays, many libraries offer structured lists of their collections online for everyone to browse. This means people can easily find the book they’re looking for, or a book that falls within their range of interest. As for promoting diverse and inclusive literature, it might be interesting to use this approach to cataloguing to provide a digital guide that visitors can use. The Bibliotheek Midden-Brabant in the Netherlands has already put this into practice by dedicating a section of its website to diverse and inclusive literature. In this section they offer lists of books about diversity and inclusion, LGBTQIA+ and gender. There are lists for adults, young adults and children, along with other related materials (viewing tips, existing communities, articles). Visitors can easily select a book they find interesting and would otherwise not have come across.

Offer books for people with a reading disability

Reading does not come easily to everyone, but people for whom reading is difficult might well have a strong desire to read. Different types of books are available to cater to those with reading disabilities, and they require different levels of reading skills. Luisterpunt in Belgium and Passend Lezen in the Netherlands are libraries for people with reading disabilities that lend out a variety of books. While many libraries already offer audiobooks to their visitors, it might be interesting to look into other types of book, such as:

  • DAISY audiobooks: DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information System. The books are narrated by volunteers or authors and can be browsed just like printed books. Listeners can move from one page to another, listen to sentences again or even insert a bookmark.

  • Braille books: blind or visually impaired people can easily follow these books in braille by running their fingers over the text.

  • Books in large print: these are printed in A4 format, have a large font size, more space between the lines and a design that is deliberately kept simple. Overall, they are easier to read than regular printed books.

  • Karaoke books: these are digital books that are combined with the spoken version. The reader is guided by a karaoke bar that follows the text, timed to coincide with the human voice that is reading the story. The reader can see where they are on the page as the book is read aloud.

Establish relations with communities to help shape your collections and activities

Another way in which libraries can work towards greater diversity and inclusion is by establishing relationships with specific cultural communities and associations. This brings in outside influences, which can result in more extensive collections with more diverse and inclusive content. An example is the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam, which has established Het Huis van alle Talen, a platform of cooperation in which the library, communities and ambassadors of different cultures work together to make the collections and activities of the library more diverse and inclusive.

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