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Diverse Voices - Research Strategies

General Strategies for Discovering Diverse Voices

Finding information ABOUT diversity and social issues is not too difficult. Keyword or subject searching in library databases should yield basic information. 
Finding works written BY diverse and historically underrepresented voices can be a bit trickier if you don't have a list of authors to begin with. Some libraries try to overcome this deficiency by curating book lists, bibliographies and displays which tend to be limited in scope and quickly outdated. Here are a few better strategies:

Known Authors - Searching strategies

If you have an author's name, or a list of authors, the easiest way to find books written by a known author is to search the online catalog by Author/Creator:

Search by author slash creator


Note that in this example, the Library of Congress authorized name heading for "Kwame Anthony Appiah", is actually "Anthony Appiah." The original author search for "Kwame Anthony Appiah" results in 58 records. Redoing the author search using "Anthony Appiah" yields 72 results.
Some writers may be contributors to anthologies, in which case the catalog record may not have the author listed in a searchable author field, but the contributor may be listed in a contents note. Most notes fields in catalog records can be searched using a keyword search by selecting the "anywhere in the record" option in the search menu. This will broaden the search to include anthologies such as "Debating race, ethnicity, and Latino identity : Jorge J.E. Gracia and his critics." The catalog record for "Debating race, ethnicity and Latino identity" doesn't have searchable authors fields for every contributor, so a keyword search is the only way to search for individual authors in this record.
A broader, keyword search on "Anthony Appiah" results in 249 records. Keyword searches include subject fields as well as authors and contents, so a keyword search on "Anthony Appiah" will including books ABOUT Kwame Anthony Appiah and likely a few or many irrelevant titles.


Do a keyword search using "anywhere in the record"











Finding Books - Using Subject Headings

When searching for books in the library catalog, it is sometimes better to use subject headings to get the best search results on a topic. Subject heading are preferred terms, like tags assigned to records to help locate works on similar topics. We use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) as the preferred terms. Keyword searches look at MOST the metadata words in a catalog record, but subject searches only look words in the subject heading fields (6XX). Subject searches are more precise, so subject search results will be more specific. 


One of the easiest ways to identify the best subject headings to use is to start with a few KEYWORD searches. Display the catalog records for titles that look pretty good and find the subject terms have been assigned to those works. Then redo your search using those subject terms.
For example, a book search using keywords "environmental racism black communities" yields 276 titles, some pretty good, but some are not really relevant. Displaying the book titled "A terrible thing to waste : environmental racism and its assault on the American mind" shows the subject headings:
Environmental Justice
African Americans -- United States -- Social conditions
Redoing the search using SUBJECT terms "Environmental Justice African Americans Racism" yields 3 very relevant titles. A broader search on "Environmental Justice African Americans" yields 11 relevant books.
This primer from LC on Subject Heading basics, is a good place to learn more about how LC Subject Headings are structured: American Women: Resources from the General Collections. LCSH and LCC are complicated so don't worry about understanding all the nuances. Your searches can't break anything, so try different combinations to see what you get.

Finding Books - Library of Congress Subject Headings for Finding Diverse Voices

To find books written by people from historically marginalized communities first identify the subject heading used for that class of person or ethnic group. Links on these pages qualified by (LCSH) will connect to the Library of Congress subject heading page, but you shouldn't include "(LCSH)" when you type the subject heading in your search strategy in our library catalog. Some of the LCSH records include scope notes, broader and narrower terms, and other useful information that might help with your search strategies. Here are a few examples of LC subject terms:
Once you have identified the LCSH for the class of person, you can narrow your search by using  subject heading SUBDIVISION terms to narrow your search:
For autobiographies and memoirs, use the subject term Biography (LCSH). (Note that while LC does't assign the subject heading "Autobiography" to individual memoirs, the heading may be assigned by other libraries using other schema, so search results in our library catalog may be uneven).
Biography (LCSH) can be combined with countries, classes of people, ethnic groups and events. Biography is NOT assigned to author names (i.e. Zora Neale Hurston), but if an author is a member a class of people or ethnic group, a second subject (e.g. "African American Authors Biography") heading may be assigned.
Biography is also assigned to non-autobiographical works about individuals and collected biographies. So an autobiography by Maya Angelou, and her biography written by Linda Wagner-Martin will both have the same subject headings:
  • Maya Angelou
  • African American Authors Biography
In this case, the only way to discern between the biography and the autobiography is who is listed as the author.


A subject search on a subject heading for a class of persons, e.g. "African American women biography" will yield collective biographies, individual biographies and autobiographies:
  • Black women in nineteenth-century American life : their words, their thoughts, their feelings
  • Warrior poet : a biography of Audre Lorde 
  • Bone black : memories of girlhood  by bell hooks
Primary sources are first hand or contemporary accounts of events or topics and an excellent way to identify voices of historically marginalized people. Primary sources include documents such as speeches, letters, diaries, and oral histories. Here are some subject heading terms to help locate primary sources in the library catalog:
More about primary sources and subject headings: Primary Sources Research Guide


Book anthologies about and by diverse people are a good way to learn about diversity issues and to identify authors. Crumb Library has lots of anthologies, but it is not always easy to find them. 
Subject headings for anthologies are not widely used, so a better strategy is to search by KEYWORD "Anthology" and SUBJECT for a class of people or ethnic group:
KEYWORD "Anthology" combined with SUBJECT "Gays" yields titles like:
  • Queer studies : a lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender anthology
  • In the life : a Black gay anthology
  • Nineteenth-Century Writings on Homosexuality: A Sourcebook
SUBJECT Literary collections (LCSH) IS an authorized subject term and can be used in combination with classes of people, ethnic groups, individuals, etc. For example: subject  "Hispanic Americans" and "Literary collections" yields titles like:

Browsing and Serendipity

Browsing for books on the shelves is one way to find books that fit your need. Once you locate a book title in the online catalog, when you go to the shelf to get it, look at the books adjacent to the book you found. Chances are, nearby books are on similar topics.
There are three collections in Crumb Library that would be good for browsing for diverse voices:
The online catalog also has a Virtual Browse feature for print books held by the College Libraries. Display the record for a book you like and click on the Virtual Browse link to see similar titles nearby:



Readers' Advisories and Book Recommender sites

If you have a great book and want to find more like it, then book recommenders may help. Book recommenders are not so good for academic books, but work well for many authors, and popular treatment of topics:

Book Awards

Book awards are one way of identifying the best books written in specific genres. Check the Long Lists, Short Lists as well as the Winners. Here are a few examples: 

Hashtags and Internet Resources

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the # symbol that categorizes topics and helps make it easier to find information on the internet and on social media sites. 
Some common hashtags for DEI topics:
  • #ActuallyAutistic
  • #BlackGirlMagic
  • #BlackLivesMatter
  • #CiteHerWork
  • #LoveIsLove
  • #MeToo
  • #NoDAPL
  • #OscarSoWhite
  • #StopAsianHate
  • #WriteYourResistance
  • #OwnVoices (no longer used by We Need Diverse Books, but the hashtag can still yield good lists for children and YA)
  • #ReadWoke (children and YA)

Hashtags aren't used in the library catalog, but can be used in social media and web browser searches to find book lists, e.g. "#StopAsianHate books" 
Here are a few web resources:

Finding Videos

Films on Demand has over 40,000 videos including works by diverse people and about diverse cultures. For recordings of diverse voices, search by events, movements, authors or activists name, such as Amiri BarakaAngela DavisGreta Thunberg, Temple Grandin, Stonewall Riot, or Civil Rights Movement
Films on Demand has many subject collections, such as:


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