Booksellers on Becoming Inclusive Places for Dialogue and Discovery Through Diversity

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    Following a series of bookseller discussions at the American Booksellers Association’s 10 Spring Forums and at Winter Institute 12, ABA has compiled a comprehensive list of bookseller suggestions aimed at helping stores develop strategies for strengthening the unique role they play in their communities.

    The document, “Bookstores — An Inclusive Place for Dialogue and Discovery,” is available in the Education Curriculum on BookWeb (a username and password are required; booksellers needing login information can e-mail

    The numerous suggestions shared by booksellers from a broad range of member stores are organized under six keywords: activism, community, diversity, empathy, outreach, and sanctuary. In the third of a series of articles highlighting each keyword, here are the many suggestions provided for the category of diversity.

    The suggestions below may not work for every store; booksellers are encouraged to consider their store culture, community, and business goals when beginning any new initiative. Booksellers who have implemented any of these suggestions in their stores are encouraged to let ABA know.


    • Display a world map featuring national and international authors and their books.
    • Highlight the deep backlist of authors from diverse backgrounds.
    • Educate yourself on how to reach a wider array of diverse applicants when hiring. When hiring and selling for diversity:
      • Send staff of color to school book fairs to represent the bookstore and the bookselling community.
      • Remember that cultural, physical, and economic factors may affect a person’s ability to be a bookseller.
      • Work to be aware of implicit biases.
    • Ask staff what they are reading as part of a monthly staff meeting. Encourage all staff to read diverse books, and expand your own reading as well.
    • Sell non-book items that reflect diverse cultures.
    • Talk with your sales reps about offering more diverse books. For other recommendations, follow diverse authors and bloggers on Twitter, check out We Need Diverse Books, and ask customers what they want to see in the store.
    • Participate in the Reading Without Walls challenge, started by National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang.
    • Use experts if you are running a discussion on diversity.
    • Have go-to books with diverse characters in all subjects, and if a diverse book doesn’t sell, KEEP TRYING.
    • Recommend diverse titles to all book clubs, as well as to teachers and schools. Host book talks featuring these titles.
    • Don’t forget small and university presses when looking for diverse books.
    • Start in-store projects to spark discussions and promote diversity. For instance, Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia, runs the Year of Kindness project, a book group that focuses on different marginalized groups each month.
    • Put diverse books in the hands of a non-diverse community by including these titles in every book list and display (no exceptions) and by hand-selling these books.
    • Know your school district demographics.