Posted in Cataloging, Collections Diversity and Inclusion

One World, Many Languages

When he accepted the Oscar for Foreign Language Film for Roma, Alfonso Cuaron said that he grew up watching foreign language films like Citizen Kane and Jaws and The Godfather. Since the creation of this category in 1956, it’s been pretty clear that the Academy Awards is “America first” or “English first.” Though Alfonso’s comments may not affect much change at the Oscars, it definitely got me thinking about our work toward inclusiveness at the library.

In my last post, I shared about our months-long relabeling project to improve access and representation in our DVD collection. In addition to discontinuing the “miscellaneous” language category and filing the films under their specific languages, we’ve taken this opportunity to update the umbrella term for this specific section of the media collection. Instead of “Foreign,” the section will now be labeled “World.”

Why are we doing this? By definition, “foreign” implies otherness, strangeness, and outside-ness. When we were discussing this collection in our Diversity and Inclusion task force, we immediately knew we wanted a word that didn’t designate English as the default. We considered “International,” but with the size of our labels, we thought that would be weird to abbreviate so it could fit. So we chose “World” instead. An added benefit, unlike international, “world” encompasses languages that aren’t associated with a national entity. It’s also consistent with other world language collections in the library.

How are patrons going to find this collection in the catalog? Because the Academy still uses “foreign films,” and we assume patrons will still use it when searching our catalog, we have decided to leave the 650_0 “Foreign films” subject heading in the records for now. However, we are also adding the local subject heading, “World films.” Otherwise, the collection won’t be moving physically, so we’re pretty sure the regular browsers of these films will find them with no trouble.

It’s a small change, but now we hope this collection won’t imply to people who speak certain languages that they don’t belong. Because everyone belongs at our library.

Posted in Cataloging, Collections Diversity and Inclusion

Project: Improving Access and Representation in Our Media Collection

Over the past several months, the catalogers and I have been working on a large relabeling project in our DVD collection. Previously, DVD feature films were processed with a genre label at the top of the spine and an alpha sticker at the bottom, based on the first letter of the first word of the title of the film. Because they’re a highly browsed collection, they weren’t shelved in exact alphabetical order, just grouped by letter.

When our Look Play Listen team explored ways to improve access to the collection, we experimented with alphabetizing the Drama films and then surveyed patrons. A number responded that the alphabetization helped them find the movies they wanted. Others said they hadn’t even noticed. Staff and volunteers, though, said it was hard to keep them in alphabetical order because of the varying fonts, sizes, and colors of the titles on the spines.

Our solution: spine labels! Revolutionary, I know. Following the cuttering rules from virtually all of our other collections, we’ve gone back and added spine labels with the first 8 letters of the titles, and a second cutter if it’s a sequel or a part of a series, like Star Wars or Harry Potter. On the third Friday of each month, the catalogers pulled a genre from the shelves to relabel, and anything that was currently checked out and returned in the weeks to follow were held for relabeling. It’s been a months long process, but we’re finally nearing the end.

This has also provided an opportunity for us to rethink the way we label our films in different languages, as a part of our Collections Diversity and Inclusion initiative. Originally, languages in which we had more than 20 or so titles got a color coded label, and all others got filed under miscellaneous (MISC on the label and in the catalog). To be more inclusive and to make it easier to find languages in the collection, all films in the languages collection will now be filed under the first language listed in the 041 MARC field no matter how many titles we have in that language.

So have the spine labels worked? From a distance, the shelves definitely look much more organized, and we have gotten comments from staff that it’s much easier to find movies. As far as keeping everything in exact alphabetical order, our Materials Handling staff discovered that it’s still much more work than it might be worth. Currently, we’re only attempting to keep our TV shows and the Drama collections in order. Even that seems like it could be a full time job…

Posted in Collections Diversity and Inclusion

Taking Action: Collections Diversity & Inclusion

My library’s leadership team has been talking a lot about equity, diversity and inclusion. With these discussions, I’ve made it one of my goals this year to lead a closer look at the library’s collection to see how well we are meeting the needs and interests of our patrons at the same time as reflecting the diversity of our community, and to see where we can and need to improve.

Last year, members of our Readers’ Services staff and I took Library Journal’s Diversity and Cultural Competency Training online course, which helped in preparing us for this initiative. Sessions covered what a diverse and inclusive collection is, how to do a diversity audit of the collection, and how to recognize stereotypes, tropes and cultural appropriation. They’re offering a similar course this year, Equity in Action: Taking Your Library’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives to the Next Level.

Now, we’re taking that action. This is a broad initiative that affects a number of departments, so that means, Yay! New Task Force! With a representation of department coordinators, back end and front line staff, we’ll be able to fine tune the focus of the initiative.

Here’s the charge we’re starting with:

  1. To gauge how diverse and inclusive our collections are currently
  2. To review possible problematic collections/access points (i.e. labeling, call numbers, subject headings in the catalog) and develop improvement plans (involving affected departments/staff)
  3. Provide (some) direction for student interns who will be working with the collections to help with this initiative (i.e. performing a diversity audit, reviewing diverse book lists for purchase suggestions)

We’ll have our first meeting later this month to decide on exact initial direction and focus. Whether we’ll do a complete collection diversity audit, adopt new cataloging practices with radical subject headings, or ditch outdated classification systems all together is yet to be seen, but I’ll plan to share our progress here. Stay tuned!


The “Wak’ó Mujeres Phụ nữ Women Mural” was recently completed on the Lawrence Public Library’s south wall by local artists to illuminate and honor the stories of women and girls of color in the community