Represent is a campaign the University of Leicester library is running to help diversify our collections. Students and staff can recommend books by underrepresented voices for the Library to purchase. The campaign began as a means to build a diverse leisure reading collection.
Read at Leicester leisure reading collection
The leisure reading collection was developed to encourage sustained reading for leisure amongst students. As there were no funds to purchase new books, titles already held by the library were identified to bring into this collection. It was important this collection was representative of the range of diversity within the student population. Therefore a case was put forward to the Alumni relations department in a bid to request additional funds to purchase new titles from underrepresented voices. The case highlighted the importance of having a representative collection of books in order to make it inclusive of all students. Through this £500 was secured and used to purchase 46 new titles. With these new titles the Read at Leicester leisure reading collection was launched in September 2019. The collection proved to be extremely popular on launch and by November 2019 an additional 146 titles from the main collection were added to it to meet demand.
The Represent Campaign
In order to achieve true representation within the collection, I knew we would need to work in collaboration with library users to develop the collection. Therefore the Represent campaign was launched through which library users could recommend titles from underrepresented voices for the library to purchase and add to the leisure reading collection. This project was granted £1000 for the 19/20 academic year and another £1000 was added to the fund for 20/21 academic year.
Through the campaign 196 requests have been received. Of these 132 were titles not held by the library and were purchased using the Represent fund. Of the remaining requests, 64 titles were already held in the library collections. Out of all the requests received only 3 have not been purchased. Two titles have been out of print and one title was not available as a translation in English from Arabic.
There are 347 titles in the collection with requests from users still being received. There have been 480 loans since the Read at Leicester collection was launched and 261 titles from the collection have been borrowed at least once. The most borrowed title has been loaned 6 times and the top 10 borrowed titles have all come from the Represent campaign. The collection has been successful in attracting a range of users at all levels within the University demonstrating that the collection is of interest across all borrowing groups. The largest borrowing group has been undergraduate students which is reflective of the size of the borrowing group.
With an excellent collection of books that cover a range of issues, I’m keen to start conversations with students. Last year I held a zine making workshop around the theme of representation. Students who attended created zines that explored the representation of different body size in mainstream media, the idea of seeing yourself as the hero and feeling “othered”.
This year I am working with student volunteers to post regular blog posts and newsletters about the campaign and the books we’ve purchased through the campaign. Next term I will be working with volunteers to look at representation within their subject reading lists and setting up an online forum for book discussions.
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About the Author
Heena Karavadra is an Academic Librarian at the University of Leicester and project lead for the Represent campaign.