Library updates its book selection

Staff adds more diversity to book choice


Helena Erdahl

Library staff adds an “Biography & Memoir” section to their featured shelves, adding books with interest relevant to high schoolers.

Within a high school English curriculum, the focus is primarily on older books that could be seen as “classics” or older texts about important topics. 

While older publications might be seen as timeless, a lot of older books lack diversity of perspectives and accuracy. At the library, the staff is making an effort to have more books students are interested in and to make the books available. Conor Greaney, the school librarian, gives insight into how and why the library staff is focusing on making these changes. 

“I would say in the last few years, the focus has been on trying to get books that are relevant for students that do two things really,” Greaney said. “You want to have books that reflect the identities of students within your student body and also help expose students to experiences that they are not familiar with so you can kind of see yourself reflected in books and also learn about other people.”

Greaney is also trying to diversify the genres that are offered at West Linn by introducing more selections from previously smaller sections. He has focused specifically on impacting the accuracy and diversity of the selection. For example, the horror book “Ace of Spades” by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, and the mental health publication “Unwinding Anxiety” by Judson A. Brewer are new additions to our library and have been highly circulated since added. 

At the beginning of the year, [mental health books] were really out of date, and especially with something like that, that’s nonfiction,” Greaney said. “It can be pretty damaging to have outdated texts because first of all, there can be a lot of damaging stereotypes presented but also just bad information. We’ve learned a lot about mental health. So that’s an example of a category this year that I focused on improving and getting newer titles, both in fiction and nonfiction.”

Within the library, the staff is striving to listen to students about what they prefer in terms of selection, and what they’re checking out from the library.

“The main thing that I use for selection is that the top priority for me is just what students are asking for,” Greaney said. “And so students, if they ever want anything should feel comfortable coming in and sharing their opinion asking for books, we’d love to try to get books that students want.”

While the library’s collection has made major changes, Greaney still wants more changes to happen. Within the nonfiction selection, the average publication date is 1994. Greaney is making an effort to make progress across this front and make shifts in selection.

“It’s really important to have new texts because information changes, we learn new things, and we make discoveries,” Greaney said.  

In the last four years, previous librarian Megan Dobson and Greaneys’ changes in selection have increased circulation by five times in the past four years. This can be attributed to updated informational texts and increased diversity within the library.

“Everyone deserves to see stories that kind of reflect who they are and that they can connect to,” Greaney said. “And then they also deserve to learn about people who are different from them. I think, the broader the variety of stories we have, that not only makes things better because it helps us broaden our minds, learn about different things…”

These improvements within the library can be seen as a part of a larger pattern. Greaney credits these changes partially to a larger movement within the book industry. 

“So what we’re doing as part of a kind of just broader, like the book industry is just becoming much more diverse and inclusive in general right now,” Greaney said. “So we’re kind of in the middle of this period of just really rich literature coming out.”