August 11, 2016
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, begun in 2014 to promote diversity in children’s literature. But have you heard of the campaign to promote “people first” language? According to The Arc, an organization promoting rights for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, approximately one out of every five Americans has a disability. Having a disability or special needs is only a small part of who an individual is, and to identify a person by that label is focusing on that a single aspect of the individual as a whole.
We here at NoveList have recognized this issue and have begun to change our subject headings to recognize the importance of the individual over the disability. Not only is people first language preferred by advocacy groups and many of those affected, but now subject headings will be grouped together by the individual first and not the disability.
Using women as an example, here are some of the changes we’ve made:
If you search NoveList for the title Wonder, by R. J. Palacio (TI Wonder AND AU Palacio) and scroll to the Subject Headings on the More About This Book tab, you will see the first heading has been changed to Boys with disfigurements from Disfigured boys. A search for Jan-Philipp Sendker’s The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (TI Art of hearing heartbeats) will display the heading Men who are blind, formerly Blind men.
With these changes being implemented, you can now search by the name of the disability or special need more easily, allowing you to find more titles. Are you looking for titles about individuals with diabetes? Before we changed the headings, if you wanted to pull titles for anything related to diabetes, you performed a search for SU Diabet* (the wildcard was necessary to pull in “diabetic” individuals as well as the disorder. Now, simply search for SU Diabetes (no wildcard!), and you will pull in the same titles. If you want to focus on the type of individual (for example, women), you would focus in on that aspect of your search -- SU Women with diabetes.
Is one of your younger patrons looking for realistic fiction which contains a young character with a disability? Search for SU Children with disabilities AND GN Realistic fiction
What if your patron comes in asking for an audiobook (CDs, please!) featuring someone with Down syndrome? You can search SU Down syndrome AND FO Spoken word compact disc to find her book.
To further highlight titles featuring characters with disabilities, we use the appeal term Ability diverse on fiction for juvenile audiences. If a teacher is looking for a picture book featuring a character with a disability, search AP Ability diverse AND GN Picture books for children.
We will continue to make improvements to our headings for those groups of individuals with special needs and disabilities, so stay tuned!
Suzanne Temple is a Metadata Librarian at NoveList.