LIBRARIES, WE NEED
DIVERSE BOOKS SHARE
Changing the conversation around books—
and changing the world
BY DIANE PATRICK
We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) started as a hashtag in 2014 and evolved into a trade- marked, volunteer-run, nonprofit organiza- tion in 2015, with librarians counted among the group’s strongest partners. And going
forward, the support of librarians will only grow.
As WNDB’s push to bring more diversity to American
readers continues, the group has as even created a position
dedicated to libraries—senior v-p of librarian services—
currently occupied by former librarian at the Harlem
Village Academies and WNDB COO Dhonielle Clayton. “WNDB had a lot of initiatives for librarians,” Clayton says, “so we needed a real librarian to take over responsibilities and put together a team.” Clayton is also an author: her new book Shiny
Broken Pieces, is due this summer from HarperCollins, the second title in her Tiny
Pretty Things YA series.
Clayton says she took the volunteer position at WNDB because it allows her to do
important work for diverse young readers, a passion of hers. Among her librarian-focused responsibilities at the group, she recently assembled a team to read submissions for WNDB’s first annual Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s
Literature, which last month went to the YA novel All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
and Brendan Kiely; the two honor books were Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings
by Margarita Engle and X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon.
Clayton oversees three other WNDB initiatives popular with librarians: the Summer
Reading Series, which uses the “if you liked this, read this next” approach to promote
diverse books; the End of the Year Booklist, a compilation of the top 40–50 diverse
books from the year; and, in partnership with School Library Journal, the Booktalking
kit, which coaches librarians, booksellers, and teachers on how to hand-sell diverse
books in a more thoughtful way. The original kit was an annual printed package, but
in the future it will be online so that users can choose and print pieces. And due to its
growing popularity, it will be released seasonally.
Making a Difference
With a growing number of library initiatives in place, WNDB and librarians are