Service Sparks: Equity in Your Library

Grade Level: 
4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Cultural/Historical Contexts
Simple Safe Service
Ignite meaningful action that lights up the world through "Service Sparks" youth projects! Do you have a culturally diverse library? Use a spreadsheet to analyze and discuss the cultural representation of a library's collection. Look for gaps and make a proposal to grow the diversity of the books and challenge yourself and others to learn about people and the world from different perspectives.


Ignite meaningful action that lights up the world through "Service Sparks" youth projects!

Our libraries need diversity if we want to grow our cultural awareness. We have libraries at home, at school, and in the places we meet across the community. A library brings knowledge of the world and forms our views and our future. A library that has books from many different perspectives helps us learn a balanced view of science, language, history, and the people and cultures of the world. We can challenge ourselves to grow and learn by first becoming aware of the books we are exposed to. Follow the directions below to evaluate a library, find the gaps in cultural views, and make a plan to update the library with the help of your community.

  1. Pick a library you want to evaluate. Start small with a personal library, Little Free Library, or the library in a classroom or community organization. Get permission to analyze its cultural content. 
  2. Scan the titles of whole collection to get a sense of the books and organization. What does your first impression tell you? Are there books representing a variety of cultural groups: Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indigenous? Are different religions and parts of the world represented? Is there a mix of fiction and nonfiction? Are people of a variety of abilities and identities represented? Ask yourself or the "owner" of the library about the purpose and goals of this collection and whether more diversity would make it stronger. 
  3. Copy and save this library spreadsheet (or simpler BINGO grid). Look at each book and put Xs in all the boxes that describe its cultural attributes. 
  4. After you note the qualities of each book, tally up the numbers showing cultural representation.
  5. With another person, look at the descriptors where the numbers are high and low. Talk about where there are gaps in cultural respresentation. 
  6. Make a plan to share what you have learned and get help identifying and buying books or seeking donations. Maybe you build a Little Free Library in your community, like this 4-H group did, and publicize the need for books that contain specific content or cultural representation.
  7. Collect books and tell others about your project and its impact.
  8. Read the book, the Librarian of Basra, and use this Learning to Give literature guide to facilitate questions and activities about the community collaboration to save books during the war in Iraq. 

Reflection: What is the role of young people in raising awareness in the community of the need for cultural diversity in books?

Explore more Service Sparks projects:


Learning to Give ... 

  1. educates youth about philanthropy, the civil society sector, and the importance of giving their time, talent and treasure for the common good (knowledge),
  2. equips youth by encouraging philanthropic behavior and experience (skills), and,
  3. empowers youth to take voluntary citizen action for the common good in their classrooms, lives and communities (behavior).