Libraries are wonderful community spaces, and do their best to reflect their communities. Permanently childless adults make up a significant part of the community, with specific needs for their libraries.
Childlessness is a taboo issue that doesn't get a lot of public attention, so most people don't know how prevalent it is.
In the UK, USA, Canada and Australia, 1 in 5 women, or 20%, reach the age of 45 without children. The numbers are less clear for men and non-binary people, but are likely to be similar.
Given only around 2% of women are childfree-by-choice, that means that 18% of women over 45 are childless - they wanted to have children but did not get to. This could be because they didn't meet a willing partner in time, had infertility, were too unwell to carry a pregnancy or raise a child, had a partner they couldn't safely or healthily raise a child with, could not afford IVF or to raise a child alone, or hundreds of other reasons.
As information hubs, libraries are a resource. Unplanned childlessness can cause depression, grief, and confusion as someone grapples with what happened and makes a new plan for their life.
Seeing yourself reflected in books is important - libraries usually seek to reflect the languages, cultures and other identities of their community. This impacts the books on the shelves, book labeling, displays and celebrations. As a somewhat hidden identity, childlessness needs active inclusion efforts.
Safe and comfortable entertainment
While grieving, or struggling through treatment for infertility, some topics can be especially triggering for childless people. Pregnancy, birth, miscarriage and related plot lines can be troubling, for example, and in particular the "miracle-baby" trope featured in a lot of romances.
Repeatedly finding a book suddenly turns to these topics can lead to people avoiding reading while they're struggling with deep grief.
1. Have resources for people who are struggling with childlessness
To support these members of the community, libraries should stock a range of self-help and non-fiction titles to help childless people manage the transition into accepting permanent childlessness.
2. Stock books about childless and childfree people
This site includes a list of fiction titles that feature childless or childfree protagonists. There are also lists of biography and memoir titles written by or about non-parents, so people can find something diverting or inspiring that also makes them feel seen.
3. Celebrate world childless week
If your library celebrates days or months of significance, like Pride, Black History Month and Mothers Day, consider also celebrating World Childless Week in the same way.
You could make a book display of relevant titles, or have posters or other resources.
4. Be able to recommend books to people trying to avoid triggers
All the books featured on this site have been recommended by childless people, and either feature childless or childfree protagonists, or have little-to-no mention of parenting. You can use these lists as you like, or create your own!
If you use spine labels to draw attention to books for the LGBTIQ community, communities of colour and others, consider doing the same for books about explicity childless or childfree people.