Saturday, January 13, 2007

Where is All the Black Fiction?

I am disheartened.

Two years ago, nearly to the day, we launched a book discussion group called Soul Collections. It was created as a book group dedicated to reading and discussing books by African American authors. KPL has had great success with this; however, the biggest challenge is finding books to read! There are so few books by African American authors in the Praire Area Library System's online catalog. Now, there are nearly 400 member libraries in this system. Our newly merged catalog will have 8 million holdings. And very few of these are black fiction? Certainly, we buy our own copies for KPL but we need at least 15-20 copies of these books so the group can all read them. Is it the responsibility of the other libraries in the system to buy books for a KPL book group? No. But, my question is - are we the only library that has readers who are interested in black fiction? Surely not.

Yvonne and I have racked our brains trying to come up with a solution to this challenge. My idea was to create book sets of our own and hope to find a couple of libraries in the system who would be interested in doing so, as well, until we can find a grant to apply for that would fund this. I sent an email out to the system libraries asking if any of them had book discussion groups that featured African American authors. And then I waited. And waited. And heard crickets chirping. Not one library replied. I did some searching and could not find any other library in the entire system who featured a book discussion group like this.

We decided that we would buy these book sets on our own. We went to Baker & Taylor's website (major book distributor) to purchase them and were disheartened there, as well. There were very, very few copies of any of the popular black fiction books in any of the B&T warehouses across the U.S.

KPL is buying the book sets (through, no less) on our own and we will launch this service in February for Black History Month. We would happily share these sets with other libraries; however, I'm guessing the system-wide demand will be low. I am hopeful that we will find a grant that will help us fund these in the future. Yvonne and I have not given up. We are reminded of this in particular because Monday we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday and all that he stood for (and still stands for today). As Dr. King once said, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

Information for the books we are reading and when Soul Collections meets can be found here.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services


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