The Forest Park Public Library (FPPL) has been a part of the community since 1916. Over the last 104 years, our offerings have evolved and changed, but the mission has stayed the same. We are here to serve our community and provide education, entertainment, and empowerment.
The most recognizable way FPPL staff achieves our mission is through our collection. The collection is made up of books, audiobooks, magazines, DVDs, CDs and much more. We can’t own everything, so our trained staff curates the collection specifically for the Forest Park community. This curation process includes not only selecting what we buy, but determining how we organize, label, and display items. Creating an inclusive collection is a top priority. As we learn more, our collection evolves.
Many years ago FPPL created the Urban Fiction collection, which grouped a variety of genres of books about and by the Black community. While the intent of this collection was to highlight Black writers and Black stories, we now realize that this is a problematic way to achieve this goal. As we learn more about inclusivity and what it means to be an inclusive institution, we have come to the conclusion that othering authors and stories from underrepresented communities by singling them out for their differences is not the best way to celebrate them. Furthermore, terms like “urban” have evolved into catch-all phrases that inaccurately, and often offensively, represent the groups they are applied to.
To address the problematic language and the inevitable oversights that occur when grouping collections in such a manner, the Urban Fiction collection has been dissolved and the books have been re-cataloged into other areas of our larger collection, as dictated by the subject matter they contain.
Collecting and highlighting works by and about the Black community remains a priority for FPPL. Moving forward we intend to curate those titles in a way that honors the content of the material, which will make them much more discoverable by the community.
The Adult Services Department strives to offer adult collections that include a wide range of perspectives from authors with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ identities. Staff works to enrich the community by including works by historically underrepresented voices.
The Youth Services Department collection is also undergoing some changes. This department has been auditing storytime selections for some time and staff is applying that knowledge to conduct an inclusivity audit of the collection. This means staff members are taking a close look at what books are in the collection and how they are categorized and labeled with the goal of creating a relevant and inclusive collection. Youth Services materials often include labels and stickers on the spines to make finding the type of book you want easier. The first phase of the audit includes evaluating these labels for inclusivity.
The Young Adult Department is also working to create a collection that includes multiple representations in all genres including video games. This goes beyond demographics and includes considering accessibility for reading abilities by including multiple genre formats for a single topic such as a DVD, graphic novel, or even an abridged version.
When you next visit FPPL, please know that your favorite authors and books are still here. You may see books and other items in different places than they were before, or without the labels you have grown accustomed to seeing. If you have questions, please ask a staff member.
We are committed to creating a collection that reflects and also inspires our community. While books and other items may be organized differently, we will continue to spotlight BIPOC authors through displays, programming, and online content. We encourage our community members to read more about the importance of desegregating the library stacks and building an equitable and inclusive library collection in some of the materials listed below.
If you have suggestions for items for us to add to the collection, please let us know. Go to fppl.org/suggestapurchase.
The Problem with Diversity Labeling, by Alexandria Brown
Diverse Collections: An Interpretation of of the Library Bill of Rights
6 Myths About Diversity in Early Childhood Storytimes (and How we Can Read Diverse Books in Our Library’s Storytime Now), by Jill Eisenberg