Yesterday, I wrote an open letter to the Libby app about a list I saw featured Celebrating Muslim Culture during Ramadan. Many of you have already read my take. If you haven’t, you can check it out here. Today, I want to write a letter to you, dear readers, to show how my small action led to some change in the real world.
I want you to know that when you use your voice for good, people will listen and they will do their best to make it right.
I wrote my letter yesterday because I knew what I saw was wrong, and I didn’t want to quietly send a message to the company or companies responsible, so they could just as quietly change it. I worried that someone who was Muslim would have already seen the list of 100+ titles and been offended by it if they knew that the only connection these novels had to Muslim culture were the young women of colour pictured on the covers.
I thought this list could lead to further ignorance, but most importantly, I wondered what about the books Toronto Public Library has that really do feature Muslim culture? I knew that they deserved a chance to have the focus during one of the few times of year when organizations in Muslim-minority countries would feature them.
I knew that to make it right for these Muslim-focused books, authors, and their potential readers, would need some sort of public discourse, and my blog allowed that to happen online, especially on various social media sites.
I addressed the letter to the Libby App because I was working under the impression that they curated the content. Unfortunately, this was incorrect. A few people on social media, namely @Meganfangirl, @mollydett, and @weechagirl, suggested that I might’ve directed it to the wrong organization.
But even though I now, without a doubt, know that the above three people were correct, I’m pleased that this open letter still managed to effect change.
Overdrive reached out to me this morning about this situation in a series of three tweets, which noted that while I had addressed my letter to the wrong organization, they would pass the message on to the right people:
But Overdrive wasn’t the only one who reached out to me this morning. @SimonTeenCA, the Canadian arm of Simon & Schuster’s teen line, responded to me publicly as well, to thank me for bringing the issue to their attention:
Between Overdrive and Simon Teen Canada, I knew that the wheels were in motion to have the list fixed, and there was nothing left for me to do but wait.
I patiently waited several hours and toward the end of the work day, I got another message. However, it wasn’t from any of the organizations who had already spoken with me and thanked me for pointing out the error. It was from the Toronto Public Library. Here’s their response and my answer to them:
So there you have it. Not only did the Toronto Public Library thank me for pointing out the error, but also they admitted that one of their staff members made a mistake, apologized if it offended anyone, and updated the list, removing the titles in question.
Could they have handled it better? Maybe there’s a better way they could’ve offered their apology, maybe they could’ve just apologized whether it offended anyone or not.
But for me, the main thing was that they admitted a mistake was made by someone who works for them, and they made a sincere effort to correct it by examining the work on that list and fixing it.
In fact, they didn’t just remove There’s Something About Sweetie and From Twinkle, With Love from the list. Yesterday they were advertising 100+ titles, but today it’s down to 90+ titles, so presumably there were other books, beyond those that I mentioned, which had no place on the list as it was devised.
So if I can affect change with this little blog, then if you see something that’s just wrong and you make some effort to get the message to the right people, even if you hit up the wrong part initially, you may very well be able to affect change, too. Never forget that.
Thanks so much for stopping by.
Take care and stay safe,
YA Book Shelf