Our Team

For press inquiries, please contact Marjorie Hall, Bates College Director of Strategic Communications at mhall@bates.edu.
  • We are academics and professionals from the fields of psychology, children’s books, and library science who care deeply about representation in children's books.

Our work started about seven years ago when Krista Aronson and Anne Sibley O'Brien collaborated on a research project designed to explore how picture books depicting positive relationships across cultural boundaries could be used to improve non-Somali children’s views towards Somali children and vice versa in Lewiston, Maine (see Aronson & O'Brien School Library Journal for a summary of research findings or Aronson et al., 2016 for a complete empirical manuscript). As books depicting Somali/non-Somali friendships were lacking, they had to write their own books for this research. They continued to pursue the topic about the number and nature of diverse books (see further at the “Book as Bridges” workshop http://www.coloringbetweenthelines.com/how-to-talk-about-race-a-list-of-books/)

This work grew. In 2013 Krista began visioning a content analysis of diverse picture books with Annie and then Bates senior thesis student Brenna Callahan (‘15). Krista received an initial grant from Bates College to start building a physical collection to analyze (http://www.coloringbetweenthelines.com/collection-launched/). We have been working together ever since, welcoming librarians Christina Bell (collection manager) and Deborah Tomaras (cataloging consultant) to the team in 2016.

Working together many Sunday afternoons in Portland, Maine, we have developed a deep understanding of and appreciation for racially and culturally diverse picture books, which we are happy to share with you.

Project Director Dr. Krista Aronson, Ph.D. (karonson@bates.edu) is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Bates College whose work focuses on illuminating how people come to understand complex social constructs like race and ethnicity, including how children process and understand race as well as appropriate, effective and productive ways to discuss this topic with them; specifically, the effective use of picture books to enhance intercultural relationships and self-understanding during childhood. Her own identity as a biracial woman deeply informs her work. The Diverse BookFinder and associated work are the focus of her active research, which represents a substantial portion of the professional effort of faculty at Bates.

Anne Sibley O’Brien A co-founder of the Diverse Picture Book Collection, Annie is an award-winning author and illustrator of 36 multicultural children’s books whose work has regularly been cited for attention to authentic cultural details. She has also been engaged in education about multicultural literature, diversity and antiracism for more than forty years. Her experience of being raised bilingual and bicultural in South Korea as the daughter of White American medical missionaries was the catalyst for her lifelong focus on human difference.

Brenna Callahan graduated from Bates College in 2015 and studied Identities in Education and French. Brenna's interest in diverse picture books is inspired by her work with an early literacy intervention program for K-2nd grade students in Lewiston, Maine, and her experiences reading with young students of color. Brenna is currently an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Harward Center at Bates College where she coordinates college aspirations programming for Lewiston and Auburn students. Brenna loves sharing diverse picture books with young readers and watching them see themselves and their world reflected before them.

Christina Bell, Humanities Librarian at Bates College’s Ladd Library where she performs traditional liaison duties related to reference, instruction, and collection development. She joined the Diverse BookFinder in 2016 as a collection manager and digital project consultant, helping to expand the physical collection of diverse books and to consider how users interact with the technology to find the books. Before becoming a librarian, Christina worked in human rights and is deeply committed to information access and diversity. She earned her MLIS from Long Island University and MA in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University.

Deborah Tomaras has been a cataloging librarian for more than sixteen years; her interest in creating and modifying controlled vocabularies includes a stint as the NACO Coordinator at The New York Public Library. Deborah joined the Diverse Book Finder project to help explore the limitations of traditional cataloging and publishing languages (like LCSH, LCSHAC and BISAC) in describing diversity in picture books. She helped standardize the vocabulary developed by other team members, determined how the vocabulary could interact with traditional book cataloging, and provided a framework for describing the vocabulary to other librarians. She earned her MLS from the University of Maryland at College Park, and presently serves as the Head of Technical Services at the Patten Free Library in Bath, Maine, and a Collections Processing librarian at the Lewiston (Maine) Public Library.