SLC Students Create Website Highlighting Diverse Reading Options

The City Library
3 min readMay 24, 2024


The two Salt Lake City Public Library (SLCPL) Teen Squad volunteers made, a searchable online database of recently published YA fiction.

Teen Squad volunteers Emery (left) and Rayne (right) at the Anderson-Foothill Branch

In the summer of 2022, SLC-area teens Rayne and Emery noticed how difficult it was to find Young Adult books that fit with their favorite genres and interests while also highlighting diverse characters or authors.

“A superficial Google search only shows the same 15 titles on repeat,” says Rayne. “We had to dive deeper to find books that not only reflected diverse identities but also our reading interests.”

So they did something about it, creating the website, a searchable database with over 30 filters that allows young adults to find books by genre, format, and various racial, ethnic, religious, ability, gender, and sexual identities.

The homepage.

Rayne and Emery built as their summer Teen Squad project. Teen Squad volunteers work closely with SLCPL’s Teen Services Librarians to develop a project of their own choosing and help the Library better cater to its young patrons.

“We realized our struggle was undoubtedly being mirrored by many teens in similar situations. Our goal was to curate a collection of books that celebrates diversity of people and also in content,” says Rayne.

Diversity can be hard to define and often relies on context. Statistics show that the majority of young adult books feature white, cisgender, heterosexual lead characters and are written by white authors. This doesn’t align with the demographic makeup of the readers of these books, who represent the broad spectrum of identities and human experiences within our communities.

Diverse stories are valuable for everybody, as stories like this can serve as Mirrors or Windows. Emery explains: “Diverse representation in books lets members of minority groups — especially kids — see themselves represented authentically with written characters and interactions that reflect their own” (Mirrors). “It also lets people whose identities lie outside those groups connect with, empathize, and educate themselves about people who are different from them.” (Windows).

Emery continues: “[Reading] helps build empathy, understanding, and awareness for people who don’t share your race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, or soci-economic status.”

While Rayne and Emery had an interest in web development, they didn’t have any practical experience before going into this project. “It started as just an idea,” Emery says. “Then a document. Then a spreadsheet. Then a website we built from scratch.” Emery researched the books and found the covers to give it visual appeal. The two realized that typical web-building templates wouldn’t work for their vision. Rayne consulted with a web development professor at Westminster University and ended up learning coding techniques like Python and CSS to build the website. The project took nearly a year, with continued refinement after the website was up and running. The site lists 650 books, all published in the 2020s. Titles link to their Goodreads pages as well as their availability in the SLCPL catalog. Students and teachers at their school are using the catalog, and they have twice presented their work at the Utah Library Association (ULA) annual conference.

Emery and Rayne give a presentation on their work at the 2024 Utah Library Association annual conference.

The two are especially grateful to their mentor throughout the process, Teen Services Librarian Claire Doctorman of the Anderson-Foothill Branch. “Without the sustained check-ins and support we got from the Library, we wouldn’t be here today,” Emery explained during a taped ULA presentation. “Everyone can make a difference in the community, especially when the Library is used as a vessel for change.”

Visit the site at