Books with Flava: Street Lit in Libraries

Below is a guest post from Barbara Genco, Brooklyn PL, on the BEA program about street lit. 

We have also posted a “Webliography” from the session, of sources useful for librarians developing collections in this area.

   blackwidow   ghetto   hustlers

Every fall students in my Pratt SILS Collection Development and Management class present a final project which highlights collection trends, focusing on the ‘real life’ solutions that savvy librarians employ to assure that their collections actively reflect the needs and wants of their communities.

Last fall four early career librarian-trainees (list below) from the Brooklyn and New York Public Libraries chose to investigate current public library practice in collecting and offering street lit to teens. They cannily developed a survey using and distributed it widely among youth materials and public library list serves. They collected and highlighted their findings in an article in School Library Journal (“What Librarians Say about Street Lit“) earlier this year and presented a more ‘formal’ review to a packed-house panel at BEA this past weekend. They shared their  knock-out power point primer on the development of Street Lit as a genre and the results of their survey (see below). The panel was rounded out by an open and lively conversation between the “Queen of Hip-Hop Lit” Nikki Turner (author of the near classic street lit favorite—A Hustler’s Wife) and her current editor, the highly respected Melody Guy of Random House/Ballantine’s One World imprint

Some Street Lit Stats: 

  • Of the 241 libraries reporting, a whopping 92.5% include Street Lit in their collections while 7.5% do not
  • Of the 241 Libraries Responding: 49 % are Urban, 43 % Suburban; 8%  Rural
  • Of those that do not include Street Lit, 11.1% were in urban settings.  
  • Why do these libraries decline to collect Street Lit? 

11.1 % reported that Street Lit is “too controversial”
5.6%  described it as “poorly written”
11.1% cited “negative stereotypes”
50% No patron interest (emphasis ours) 

  • Where are those street lit books in libraries? 

16.9% in Adult Fiction
14.6% in YA
68.5 % purchase for both Adults and YAs

  • Where are they shelved? 

13.2% shelve them separately 
86.6 % interfile them in the Fiction collection

  • How do teens request Street Lit Titles in the library? Teens most often ask for “real life”, “dramatic”, “urban” or “ “girlie” books…or  (sobering info here)  “The books where the guy meets the girl and then he beats her up.”

Thanks to Nina Emlem, (NYPL), Karen Grenke (NYPL), Christopher Lassen (BPL), Kristy Raffensberger (NYPL) for their hard work and creativity!

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