On this episode of the NNLM Discovery podcast, Region 5 Outreach & Engagement Coordinator Michele Spatz shares how three libraries in Region 5 used Collection Equity Outreach Awards to enhance collection equity and support health literacy in their libraries by acquiring more materials by diverse voices.
We start in Alaska at the Juneau Public Library who partnered with Shéiyi X̱aat Hít (Spruce Root House, a brand-new emergency shelter for runaway and homeless youth) to provide both fiction and nonfiction materials that cover a broad range of health topics and highlight underrepresented groups including Alaska Natives, who are disproportionately likely to need shelter services. Afterward we’ll hear from librarians in Hawaii where the Wailuku Public Library used the award to create book discussion kits for children and families on timely subjects including racial equity, identity & belonging, joy & self-love, immigration & refugees, social justice & activism, and social emotional learning. And finally, we’ll hear from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, School of Medicine Library which improved its Health Humanities Collection with more depth in two key areas: women physicians with a focus on diverse voices, and LGBTQ+ experiences.
In total, 27 NNLM Region 5 member organizations received the Collection Equity Outreach Awards, and each member organization submitted a bibliography of purchased materials. Region 5 compiled these bibliographies into the Diverse Voices Toolkit, a freely accessible toolkit of collection development resources for all to use.
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This is NNLM Discovery, a podcast from the network of the National Library of Medicine. I’m librarian Yamila El-Khayat, and I'll be taking you through this podcast series that explores how the NNLM is engaging with communities to provide access to trusted information for the purpose of improving the public's health. Today's episode is Collection Equity, a story from Region five. Outreach and Engagement Coordinator Michele Spatz from Region five will be joining us today.
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Tell us about the story you're sharing today.
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One of my passion projects at NNLM was creating and managing the collection equity outreach awards. This $1500 dollar award was granted to 27 recipients throughout the six states we represent: Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. The award was designed to amplify diverse voices of underrepresented or marginalized groups focusing on health and medicine. I wanted to share a few stories of how this grant impacted collections and communities in our region.
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I can't wait to hear how this grant made a difference. Who's our first awardee?
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We'll start with the biggest state in terms of landmass we represent, which is Alaska. The Juneau Public Library submitted a unique idea. They established a partnership with a new youth shelter. I spoke with Andrea Hirsh, Juneau Librarian and Forrest Clough, Shelter Supervisor, about their submission. Here's my first question. Forest. Please pronounce the name of your shelter and explain its meaning.
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Yeah. Yes. The name of our shelter is Shéiyi X̱aat Hít and it means spruce root house. And so it is named for the giant spruce trees that are all around our building and really all around Juneau and our community in general. If the window behind me were to be open, you'd see about four giant trees with big exposed roots.
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Spruce trees have huge roots that burrow way down into the soil and expand and interlock with the roots around them and form really solid structures. And so that's part of what we are going with, with the shelter was we have kids coming in with their various points of instability and being able to be a stable, solid place for them is a big piece of what we try and do here.
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What was your submission to the Collection Equity Award?
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My submission was a partnership with Shéiyi X̱aat Hít. When we applied for the grant the youth shelter had only been open for about a month and I had toured it and they didn't really have a library. They had some beautiful bookcases, they had space for a library. And my hope was that we could get the shelter, these books, and then they can do with it whatever they want.
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We just wanted to help out.
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So when you say youth, give me an idea of what the ages are that you typically serve.
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Yeah, our ages are 10 to 17, though the majority of our youth probably fall in that 14 to 16 year old range, though that can that can change on a on a daily basis depending on what's going on and who's coming through the doors.
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Why are Alaska Natives disproportionately likely to need shelter services?
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Well, to be completely honest, I mean, hundreds of years of discrimination and racism don't just melt away overnight without any consequences. There's extensive intergenerational trauma. There's a long history over the course of hundreds of years of families being ripped apart, whether that is by child services or through the boarding school system that was in place in Alaska, which not only took kids away from their families, but took kids away from their families with a deliberate focus on stripping them of their culture and their cultural heritage.
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Some of the situations that created those problems may be significantly better now than they were in the past, but that doesn't mean that the consequences of those things just go away.
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What fiction and non-fiction titles were purchased with this grant?
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So in general, we wanted to have titles that really spoke to teens and specifically issues that teens in shelter were more likely to face. So we had both fiction books and non-fiction books about addiction and sexual assault and homelessness and abuse and generational trauma. We also tried to find as many books as we could by and about Alaskan native authors, particularly Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian, which are three major tribes in the area.
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We also tried to purchase books on trauma and resilience for the staff to be able to read and reference. And we tried to have a really diverse LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction section as well, because we know that LGBTQ teens are also more likely to need shelter services.
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Well, with these books, what do you hope that the youth will take away from, from seeing and using this collection?
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One consideration in the shelter setting is that when we have a kid come through the door, that kid may be here for two days or they may be here for two weeks. And the materials that they're going to seek out, if they're going to be here for an extended period of time, might be a lot different than what they would seek out if they were just here one night looking for something to read.
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And so having access to all those different resources is so, so helpful for us and for our kids who come through the door.
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I want kids to be able to see themselves in the books they read. The further we can like move away from having one type of human represent society, I think the better we are because because we are so diverse as people and we deserve to have that in the books we read.
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Andrea is right. We are so diverse as people. What a fantastic story. I see why this collection equity outreach grant is so important. $1500 dollars may not seem like much, but to a library that makes a huge difference to boost their collection. Where are we traveling to next, Michele?
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We're going from our biggest to our smallest state and in Region Five, Hawaii. More specifically, the island of Maui. I interviewed Chadde Holbron, branch manager at the Lāhainā Public Library, and Jessica Gleason, bookmobile, librarian for Wailuku Public Library, who partnered on their project. What was your submission to the collection equity Award?
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We submitted a proposal to create book discussion kits that would contain four books and a set of discussion cards. They would be on subjects such as the racial equity, identity and belonging, joy and self-love, immigration and refugees, social justice and activism and social emotional learning. So the kits are targeting ages 4 to 7, and the positive feedback we've gotten from these first set of kits has really been a catalyst to roll out kits for ages 8 to 11.
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And we are doing all of the themes we did for the first kits, but adding an additional theme, which will be justice and systemic racism.
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Chadde, why was why was educating parents and caregivers of children ages 4 to 12 important to your library?
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So the goal is to help facilitate family discussions and these discussions they evolve and they cultivate around empathy and self-awareness from a young age. So the curated book kits are meant to foster lifelong learning that supports the mental health and emotional well-being of individuals, families, communities and society.
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So why are family discussions on empathy and self-awareness important?
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In Hawaii, mental health has been negatively impacted, as it has elsewhere by the pandemic, and a quarter of Maui residents report not having enough social and emotional support. So one of the ways we hope to mitigate this or to contribute to a shift for the better is to support parents and caregivers who can provide that safe space for open discussion and cultivate social emotional learning.
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You know, there are social determinants of health that health is influenced by, you know, access to education in addition to food insecurity and housing limitations or shortages, early childhood development, social inclusion and nondiscrimination. They're all part of what determines the health of a community. I know Chadde can share that more about the input, but we were really excited when we did get input.
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Well, I'd like to hear more about that. So, Chadde, what has been the community response to the kits?
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So based on survey results. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and receptive. So a few of the responses that we received back, opened the door for discussion with my seven year old about emotional topics. It helped me to simplify the concept without inputting my own jaded experience. Another parent wrote, we are homeschooling and this helped to create critical thinking.
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Another one, it helped me discuss themes I never would have thought of discussing with my four year old. Since we don't see a hijab or turban or kids with Down's syndrome and wheelchairs, often, I unfortunately never thought of talking about things like this. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I also loved the questions in the books and the discussion cards helped me consider always asking questions instead of just reading to my child.
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Those are some fabulous testimonials. Wow. So are these kits checked out at the library?
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Yes, they're checked out just like books. The kits are house and tote bags, and the whole bag is checked out as one item. Jessica even carries them with her in the bookmobile.
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I love how common bookmobile have become with libraries across the country, even in Maui. Just another reason to start planning a vacation to the islands. Where is our next story coming from?
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Well, next, we're going to a medical library on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This library primarily serves the UNLV medical students and faculty. I spoke with community engagement librarian Katie Houk, who manages their Health Humanities Collection about her award. For someone who has no idea what is a health humanities collection.
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Medical humanities is very interested in using things like storytelling, reading stories and analyzing them, poetry, art to actually help future physicians maintain empathy and maintain their humanness in the face of everything that they have to do. And so medical humanities is striving to kind of bring that balance back, that medicine healing is a balance between art and science.
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So the equity award really caught my eye because it basically doubled the budget that I had so that I could focus on some other areas that we weren't as strong in, particularly women in medicine and science and LGBTQ plus experience.
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Why did you decide to focus on women, physicians and LGBTQ plus voices with this grant?
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We just really didn't have a lot in the collection to date from that perspective. With LGBTQ Plus, I feel like if I can, then it is my responsibility in a way to introduce future physicians to their the stories of people of LGBTQ identity. You know, I'm not prescribing this is how they you should treat them, this is what you need to do.
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It's just here a group of people, here their experiences either with medicine or with health and trying to maintain their health. You need to be aware of this as you make your decisions as a future health care professional. So I think that is really what drives me with making sure that those voices are represented in the collection.
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Katie also shared that over 50% of UNLV's medical students are women, but that doesn't translate into positions of power in medicine, such as hospital CEOs, medical school deans, or department chairs, where only 18% are women. This inequity is why Katie is building up UNLV's health humanities collections with strong female narrators.
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You're right. I've noticed this shift during my time as a medical librarian at the University of Arizona. Definitely more women students than when I first started. Hopefully that translates into positions of power soon too.
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Well Yamila, that's the three stories I wanted to share today. But remember this collection equity outreach award funded 27 libraries and organizations throughout the region. So there's a lot more stories we could tell.
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I'd love to hear more of these. I think you should come back in a future episode and share stories from the rest of the region.
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Absolutely. I'd love to. I have several other interviews lined up focusing on nontraditional resources that were developed from this grant. I just wanted to add one more thing before I go. This outreach award is not only making a local impact, but also making waves nationally.
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We cataloged all the bibliographies from the resources purchased and shared from this award, with our 27 partner organizations. We ended up having over 1400 unique resources. This catalog can be found online and is a great resource for libraries who are looking to amplify diverse voices of underrepresented or marginalized groups. Focusing on health and medicine.
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1400 resources. That's incredible. Where can someone find this?
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Well, the easiest way is to just Google the NNLM Reading Club, the Diverse Voices Collection Toolkit can be found on the Reading Club's main page.
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Thank you again, Michelle. The Toolkit and the Collection Equity Outreach Award made and is making quite a difference.
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Thank you, Yamila. I appreciate your kindness.
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We’ll be featuring other profiles, grants and interesting information from all of our regions during this season of NNLM Discovery. Subscribe, rate, comment and share our episodes to help us grow our audience. For more information about NNLM, check out the links within this episode's description. The NNLM offers free training, partnerships and many resources that help to improve health and wellness.
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Learn more at NNLM.gov.