Diversity in Publishing Industry

ALA Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books, Censorship, Diversity, General Interest

by Kristin Pekoll

I’ve been looking forward to the results from the Lee & Low Diversity in Publishing survey for a while. The results include responses from 8 review journals and 34 publishers of all sizes from across North America. Last year’s Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books exposed an often ignored theme in the results. EIGHT out of the TOP TEN books included themes, characters, or authors of diversity. There are so many questions and suspicions about WHY these books are challenged.


And like the results from American Library Association’s Top Ten Lists, I look at the results of Lee & Low’s diversity survey and ask questions about the books getting published and the books not getting published. Because how can we have intellectual freedom if there are ideas and perspectives blocked by gatekeepers. The foundation of ALA is the Library Bill of Rights. When I was presenting at the Tennessee Library Association conference, their theme was “A Place for Everyone at the Table”. It embraces the Library Bill of Rights and every opinion and idea that may be different or controversial. Are we hearing all points of view? from all people?


And we circle back to the Lee & Low Diversity in Publishing survey. It’s so great to have this information in our hands as we move forward to write, publish, collect, and protect diverse points of view.

“We believed in the power of hard numbers to illuminate a problem that can otherwise be dismissed or swept under the rug. We felt that having hard numbers released publicly would help publishers take ownership of the problem and increase accountability.”

I particularly appreciated the last paragraph:

“Publishing is not alone when it comes to having a lack of diversity problem. All media, including film, television, and theater, are having similar conversations about diversity. It is plain to see that our society as a whole has a problem. We believe we are at a crucial time right now. We all have to decide if the country in which we live is better off if we conduct our lives separately or together. The diversity problem is not the responsibility of diverse people to solve. It is a problem for everyone to solve. Now that the Diversity Baseline Survey is completed, the real work toward changing the status quo begins. It is not going to be easy. Knowing where we stand and establishing a baseline was the first step. Knowing the baseline numbers gives us a way to measure progress going forward, but only our actions can change things for the better.”

What actions can we take?

By preserving students’ freedom to explore diverse ideas, we help them develop into thoughtful citizens who are individuals capable of independent thought.

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