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Diverse Samples: Exploring Diversity in Science through Literature

by Jonathan Bloy on 2023-02-13T09:03:52-06:00 | 0 Comments

Display case with books against a wallfrom Elizabeth Tappy, Librarian - Reference & Instruction Coordinator

Books plucked from hidden shelves and neatly arranged in a highly visible display are a common sight at the Oscar Rennebohm Library. Other places on campus, less so. But, since November 2022, two departments from the far opposite sides of campus have been collaborating on Diverse Samples: Exploring Diversity in Science through Literature, a book display in the lobby of the Sonderegger Science Center.

The project was developed by staff in the Office of Science Outreach -- program coordinator J. Benink and director Bernardo Traversari -- who approached library staff with an idea to showcase a selection of books in Sonderegger. They envisioned a display that would be regularly cycled to match current public interests and heritage months, specifically promoting books written by diverse authors in STEM and science-adjacent fields. The books can be checked out by any Edgewood community member directly from the display by visiting Benink and Traversari in the Office of Science Outreach, just a few steps down the hall from the display case.

Two books on display: Rocket Girl by George Morgan and UnBowed by Wangari MaathaiI really see this kiosk as a natural extension of the work we do for our students in the Office of Science Outreach, and of course, through our wonderful Library as well," says Benink. "For our February’s book display, we are highlighting Black History month, National Female Inventors month and Go Green Month.  Our monthly book selections offer stories that enhance our understanding of the past, but also, creates optimism that moves us to do more, and do better.”

From a librarian's perspective, book displays are the perfect way to share the richness of a library's collection, and especially to highlight individual items that often go unnoticed among the long rows of books with only their spines visible. A book display in a location outside the library building extends that visibility across campus to folks who may not visit the library often. 

Sonderegger's unique position as a building used by the Edgewood Campus School and High School in addition to the College expands that reach even further. As a result, Diverse Samples always includes books from a wide range of genres intended for different audiences -- any given month, the display features children's picture books alongside Hugo-award winning science fiction, memoirs, and academic books. Three books on display: Remote Contol by Nnedi Okorafor, High Price by Carl Hart, and The Fifth Season by N. K. JemisinThis variety is only fitting for a display with the goal of bringing visibility to diverse stories and authors in science -- and one born from collaboration between two seemingly dissimilar departments on campus.

“I love the idea of our display because I believe it exemplifies the spirit of collaboration that is prevalent at Edgewood. Not only does it add to our existing initiatives on increasing representation in STEM, but it also provides our students with ease-of-access to the library’s resources in a fun, engaging way. Moreover, though small-scale, this project offers a blueprint for other partnerships to develop around campus, thus elevating the work of individual departments, offices, and even student-led organizations," says Traversari.

"Also, on a personal note, I think having cool books around for anyone to read is just great! I mean, who doesn’t like a good book?”

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