April 3, 2018

Caribbean and proud

Like the rest of the library world, we at NoveList are interested in diversity and making sure that all readers can find stories featuring characters with which they can relate. A recent article in Horn Book Magazine, "Foreign Correspondence Beyond the 'Four Fs': Caribbean Own Voices," by Summer Edward inspired a new article, email from the Book Squad, and allowed me to put NoveList to the test.

In Edward's article, she points out that there are few books written featuring Caribbean kids, and that much of what is available is written from an outside perspective that highlights only token parts of the culture: food, festivals, folklore, or fashion. One can also find stories where Caribbean kids are in minor roles as part of someone else's story -- such as the child of a colonist or someone who owns a Caribbean slave.

The solution is to find #ownvoices authors who can write from an intimate knowledge of someone who is part of the culture of interest. I had an inkling that playing with some NoveList ‘power searches’ could help find a great list of books. I wanted books published since 2010, with well-rounded characters who portray a positive, affirming representation of Caribbean identity.

The NoveList field code AY allows you to find authors with a particular nationality. Using a general encyclopedia, I started listing all the islands and countries that are considered Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Virgin Islands, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rica, Trinidad . . .

Then I joined these together to make a power search:

AY Antigua AND AY Barbados AND AY Haiti AND AY Cuba . . .

I then viewed the results and narrowed the list down even more using limiters. The final list is in the NoveList database under the title Caribbean and Proud. It features books by authors and illustrators that are from Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, The Dominican Republic, Cuba, Saint Lucia, Antigua, Barbados, Haiti, and Guyana.

As an added bonus, we were able to look at the appeals, subject headings, and geographical locations we had used to describe these in our cataloging records and fill in any missing information.

Our metadata librarians are always looking for new and innovative ways to make books more discoverable by those who want to find something special. As new challenges arise, such as the one Summer Edward issued in her article, we work to ensure NoveList provides a practical solution. Have you come across a challenging reader request you weren’t able to find an adequate answer to? We want to hear about it and we want to help.

And if you want to get more tips on finding #ownvoices books for every reader, subscribe to the Diverse Reading email list from the NoveList Book Squad.

Lindsey Dunn is a Readers' Advisory Librarian at NoveList. 

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