Thursday, May 17, 2012

Minority babies outnumbered white newborns in 2011

Today it was announced that minority babies outnumbered white newborns in 2011 for the first time in U.S. history. What does this mean for school libraires? For public libraries? For the publishing industry? How does this relate to and impact the literacy achievement of African American male youth?


  1. I've been pondering this recently as a librarian at a school with a very diverse population. I already put a great deal of effort into maintaining a global collection, but the implications of this statistic are far beyond just what I purchase in terms of materials for my library. Libraries are community spaces and the development of our community needs to reflect the demographics of our community.

    I think this means as an individual librarian, I need to support diversity in library staffing. I can do this financially, by supporting ALA's Spectrum scholarships: But I have also been thinking that I need to reach out to area universities with ILS programs and invite library students into our space to work with students, particularly library students from underrepresented minorities. We do not have a racially or linguistically diverse staff at my school, and it would be wonderful to have more African American, Latino/Latina, and Spanish speaking adults working with our students.

    I actively reach out to students from minority backgrounds and engage them in our learning commons as volunteers, giving them a sense of ownership in our community. I promote librarianship as a flexible career with a great future. Up until now, however, these have mostly been girls. I would like to work to engage more of my African American males as decision making stakeholders in our learning commons xommunity. I hope someday there will be a Bloomberg new report saying that minority librarians outnumber white librarians!

  2. As the demographics of the country change, so should our definition of what it means to be a "minority." It intrigues me that even in a dialogue about how people of color are becoming the majority, we continue to talk about ourselves as "minorities." It is certainly true that regardless of our number we remain underrepresented in many facets of society, though, so I understand where this tendency comes from.

    Speaking as a black author, I know that the publishing industry has taken the concept of "minority viewpoints" to heart. Minority content remains the minority of what is published. The change in national demographics would seem to demand a change in the demographics of books published; however, the industry has yet to respond to this call. Access has increased somewhat in recent years, but there are still relatively few black authors being published by major publishing houses.

    Most houses do include some books with Black, Latino and Asian characters, etc., but it is almost a quota situation at times, where publishers may reject a great book about black characters simply because they already have another black title in the lineup. In other words, a book may be judged on its race before its content, much like a person in a job interview where prejudice plays a (deliberate or inadvertent) role.

    I find myself engaging in a lot of dialogue with fellow authors about what it means to be writing from a minority viewpoint these days, and more often than not we have shed the label of "minority writer" and taken on the label of "multicultural writer." Multiculturalism reaches more deeply and stretches more broadly than simple statistics and the seemingly binary majority/minority labels.

    I wonder what would happen if publishers could change their thinking a bit, too. For instance, if publishers would stop simply striving to include a token few minority books per list, and instead strive to create richly multicultural lists each year. If we shift our thinking on this front, we might begin to see more diverse books rising to the surface, and more readers crossing racial and cultural lines to find and enjoy quality literature.