Given the inherent limitations of library search tools with respect to our purpose (discussed above), we employed a range of strategies to identify appropriate new resources, with varying degrees of success. Successes were sometimes a matter of good fortune and goodwill, especially as we found colleagues willing to spread the word about the project and contribute suggestions. Perhaps needless to say, simply googling for BIPOC scientists using queries such as “Hispanic physicists” was generally ineffective, typically returning copious information about long-deceased pioneers in their fields. Instead, professional organizations were key to our process. For example, by looking at the list of board members provided on an organizational website such as the National Society of Black Physicists site (https://nsbp.org/), we were able to learn quickly of active scientists who could be identified as BIPOC and could then search in standard databases to identify their recently published books. In addition to professional organizations serving scientists of specific demographic groups, we looked for equity, diversity, and inclusion (or DEI, in the usual formulation) committees within mainstream professional organizations. DEI committees can of course also include white women, LGTBQ+ people, or other allies, so we searched for board members individually to learn about any public self-identification before searching for books they might have authored. We also contacted dozens of professional organizations directly, asking if they would be willing to send a message to their listserv on our behalf inviting BIPOC scientists to share their books with us. When organizations circulated such messages for us, the response was tremendously helpful. Yet, most of our emails did not elicit a response. Our efforts may have been hampered because we contacted organizations over the summer when faculty were on vacation or otherwise not checking email frequently. In general, the official email of a professional organization was unhelpful, while contacting either the secretary, a communications officer, or the DEI committee was most fruitful.
We also directly contacted several recently formed associations that are part of the “Black In X” (or #BlackIn__) network, a movement intended to emphasize the experience of Black scientists and practitioners in STEM fields that has spread to include Black professionals in other fields. 4 With dozens of affiliate groups, ranging from Black in Chemistry to Black in Marine Science and Black in Physics, the network has an active Twitter presence. While leadership teams in such associations tend to be composed of graduate students, postdocs, or other recent graduates, all scholars less likely to have already published books, we found that websites, blogs, Twitter threads, or podcasts they publish sometimes profile Black scientists who have authored books. We also identified several BIPOC authors because they had been profiled or interviewed in articles published by scientific journals. For instance, a recent article in the American Chemical Society’s publication Chemical & Engineering News led us to several Black chemists whose books we were able to include.5 Similarly, the included book Memoirs of Black Entomologists (discussed below) featured two scientists whose books are in turn included here. By agreeing to be interviewed for or to contribute to such books and articles, some BIPOC scientists proactively shared their own self-identification, enabling us to search for them as authors with confidence. Readers may note that the books discussed below are unevenly distributed, not only across subject matter categories but also across minority identities. This is an unintended but unavoidable result of using trial-and-error methods while operating within the time constraints of our project. We hope that others will develop these strategies further, and share other new strategies, such that we can collectively work together to make diversifying library collections more straightforward.
4. See https://www.blackinx.org/community. We note with interest the work of Jamilla Gabriel in creating a website specifically to spread information about new works of fiction by BIPOC authors (http://jamillahgabriel.com/call-number-box/).
5. Paula Hammond, “Trailblazers 2021: We Have Been Here All Along,” Chemical and Engineering News (February 2021): 22-25. Available online, https://cen.acs.org/careers/diversity/Trailblazers-2021-We-have-been-here-all-along/99/i6 (accessed June 26, 2022).