Diversifying Our Reviewer Pool: The First Step

My recent intro to our SLJTeen newsletter was as follows:

It’s been a little over a year since the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement took the publishing world by storm, and it continues to reverberate in the children’s lit community. Jason Low, from multicultural publisher Lee & Low, recently put a call out to major publishers and review journals to participate in a study that aims to shed light on the diversity of children’s publishing professionals. School Library Journal has already done a survey of its review force, and while the results aren’t surprising—almost 89 percent white and 95 percent female—they do reveal what the gaps are and where our recruitment efforts should be concentrated. We are of course always open to applications from all librarians who serve kids from birth to 18, but we’re especially interested in diversifying our pool of volunteer reviewers.

book opsOne of the steps we’re taking to actively recruit diverse reviewers is to contact local chapters of ethnicity-focused library associations, such as REFORMA and APALA. On Friday, May 1, I attended my first meeting of the Northeast chapter of REFORMA. Though a member for a while, I never attended a meeting, and when I saw that it was taking place in Queens at the BookOps facility for NYPL and Brooklyn Public, I jumped at the chance. They were nice enough to offer me a few minutes on the agenda and I was able to talk to them about reviewing for SLJ.  I also was able to make connections with a distributor and a consortium of Spanish and bilingual books. Best of all, I got to meet a diverse group of librarians from the tri-state area working in a variety of fields, such as cataloging, academic, public, and international librarianship.

book display 2
Some of the books displayed during the event that are published by members of the Spanish Publishers consortium.

And good news! At least two (Latina) librarians have expressed interest interest in reviewing for SLJ. Score!