Soft, mushy data is hard. Diversity-related subjects are a good example of important, we-know-it-when-we-see-it sorts of things that are hard to standardize. Librarians also understand this conundrum and a recent School Library Journal article “Can Diverse Books Save Us?” might be summarized in part as: Diversity is an important topic because our clients are diverse and need access to materials that reflect that, but if diversity describes society, doesn’t that mean we should segregate the books that don’t reflect society rather than promote those that do?
Diversity, it may surprise you, isn’t described in a single code and instead should be found, unlabeled, in existing subjects.
What prompted this blog post was an excellent white paper published by EDItEUR, Diversity and Inclusivity in Thema v1.3, that summarizes both old and recently added subject codes. It’s short, just over two pages, and is easily understood so I don’t plan on summarizing it beyond saying: What’s great about Thema is it supports a number of diversity-related code options plus other subjects and is designed for mixing them all up. Not only that, if something's missing (and no one argues that Thema is complete), there's a process to add it. Read the white paper to get a sense of how it works, or contact us for more information.
What we have done is pulled data from BiblioShare to confirm that publishers are using these Thema codes — a lot of the codes were just issued in Version 1.3 and are so new that no use is to be expected, but you can see the support for older codes and the new in relationship to them. This spreadsheet gives an overview of data quality, ISBN counts, and Canadian-authored ISBN counts, noting new additions in the context of their use. It would be best to read EDItEUR’s document before using it, though. (And while you’re getting it, why not download their other white papers as well as the new Version 1.3 code lists if you haven’t already?)
But we’re not data done, gaul-durn it. We wanted to take a look at the diversity keywords in BiblioShare.
Our diversity keywords
The methodology for finding "diversity" keywords is always going to be a bit fuzzy and somewhat imprecise, but here's how we did it: We started by looking at the LGBT keywords that we pulled for a previous blog post. Next, we looked at books in this #WeHaveDiverseBooks CataList catalogue (put together by Top Grade), book lists from We Need Diverse Books, and searches on Google for different kinds of diverse books. We took those book titles and looked them up on Biblio-o-matic to see what keywords were used. We ended up with a huge list that wasn't evenly weighted, so we cut it down to a more manageable size while making sure that it was inclusive and that representation was even.
Keywords used to designate "diverse" books
The 30 most popular keywords are actually pretty descriptive and do get at (for the most part) what people are generally talking about when they're talking about diversity. The bracketed numbers indicate how many ISBNs in BiblioShare are using each keyword.
social justice (5,005)
realistic fiction (4,772)
Native American (4,453)
civil rights (3,720)
race relations (2,085)
Who's using diversity-related keywords?
We found that 866 publishers have used diversity-related keywords on a total of 181,274 titles.
Top 10 BISAC codes used with diversity keywords
Most of the keywords were found in titles with a Fiction BISAC. In fact, eight of the top 10 BISACs are Fiction. Fiction / Westerns seems like an interesting category to rank so high (number four) for diversity keywords. It made up 0.18% of the total print English-language trade market in terms of units sold in 2017, but here makes up 0.89% of books with diversity keywords. Personal memoirs show up in the number two spot, so perhaps the keywords describe their authors.
Fiction / Literary (6,543)
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs (2,448)
Fiction / General (2,177)
Fiction / Westerns (1,625)
History / General (1,573)
Fiction / Historical / General (1,510)
Fiction / Classics (1,375)
Fiction / Women (1,178)
Fiction / Short Stories (single author) (949)
Fiction / Romance / Contemporary (852)
Want to see what keywords are being used on other books? Our handy Biblio-o-matic Chrome extension detects ISBNs while you're browsing the internet and pulls data from BiblioShare on things like pub date, keywords, cover images, list price, and more. See how it works or try it out.
It can be tricky choosing which keywords will be most helpful in constructing the best metadata, but referring to the guidance outlined in BISG's Best Practices for Keywords in Metadata can be worth the extra bit of effort. That being said, if everyone followed the rules, reading a list of keywords wouldn't be quite as fun.