One way librarians respond to current events is with a program. Another option is to create a book list or subject guide. But the most visual method of sharing information is to create a thematic book display. I made a few in my time at the public library, relating to holidays, the news, and happenings in pop culture.
This year my fellow book people in libraries and book stores across the country are doing programming, readers advisory, and displays relating to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Here are some examples:
- The display at the Athenian School Library in Northern California features canonical titles such as Race Matters, by Cornell West, Walter Dean Myers’ Monster, and Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man.
- At Book People, an independent bookstore in Austin, TX, the covers of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Sister Outsider draw the reader in with bright green and orange covers.
- A teen librarian in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon placed quotes by famous African Americans above her library’s display, which includes Monster and two of my favorites – Tyrell and Bronxwood, both by Coe Booth.
- The display at Powell’s City of Books in Oregon includes Monster, The Invisible Man, Alex Haley’s Roots, Sapphire’s Push: a novel, and Ntozake Shange’s moving dramatic choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.
- A Twitter user snapped a picture of the display at Hudson Books in the Newark Airport which has Push, For Colored Girls…, Toni Morrison’s Sula, and Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps’ Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America.
- The James B. Duke Library at Furman University has a display with The Invisible Man, Richard Wright’s Native Son, Ta-Nehesi Coates’ Between the World and Me, David H. Ikard and Martell Lee Teasley’s Nation of Cowards, and The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore.
The books that I would place front and center on a display like this are How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon, and All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. I imagine the reason that I didn’t see them in these pictures is because they were the first ones to get checked out or purchased! The Hennepin County Library in Minnetonka, MN has gotten a lot of well-deserved praise for the reading list they developed for teens, which has those two titles up at the top.
Most of the books mentioned above will appeal to both teens and adults, so here are some titles for the middle school crowd:
- Guardian, by Julius Lester – set in 1946, a mob lynches an innocent black man while the 14 year old narrator, who knows the truth, remains silent despite his desire for justice.
- Kinda Like Brothers, by Coe Booth – a sixth grader navigates the relationship with his new foster brother, and there is a scene where the adults talk to youth about how to interact if they are stopped by the police.
- Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me – (picture book) written by Daniel Beaty and illustrated by Bryan Collier – one day dad isn’t there anymore, and a young boy has to learn how to grow into a man without him.
- Riot, by Walter Dean Myers – set during the NYC draft riots, a biracial girl has family and friends on both sides of the chaos.
- The Rock and the River, Kekla Magoon – witness to his friend's brutal beating by the police, the narrator contemplates his father's civil rights activism, his brother's involvement with the Black Panther Party, and where he fits in.
- We Could Be Brothers, by Derrick D. Barnes – two boys, with different home lives, become friends during the three days they spend together in after school detention.