Capstone Team 2 Blog

Tackling Barriers to Book Access in Austin: A Start


Athena Hawkins, Kamryn Brownlee and Gracie Warhurst

Our team’s initial project pitch is building a product that in some way improves barriers to book access for K-12 children in underserved areas in Austin. We thought of this topic because the three of us are all avid readers with an interest in reader accessibility. Thinking of the recent book bans in Texas and Austin especially, as well as other systemic adversaries to reading, made us wonder if there might be a way to alleviate these problems. 

When researching our topic to come up with our initial pitch, we found “book desert” maps that showed an estimate of the number of books in areas around the globe. The data appeared whole and complete, but did not have an explanation of its methodology. Our best guess is that an area’s median income was then translated to an estimate of the number of books in its homes, but if that is correct, this is an inaccurate representation of book deserts, as any factor other than a widespread and highly participatory survey could truly produce accurate results. As a result of examining some of the faulty book desert maps available, we think there could be a better way to measure book deserts and want to identify parameters for book barriers in our area. 

In order to make our project solution attainable, we will need to narrow down our pitch to a certain age range and specific barrier to book access. One hurdle of our project would be connecting with underserved communities in Austin to help diagnose their specific barriers to book access. None of us are from Austin, so we don’t have any connections to residents that live in these areas. It is vital that we utilize any connections we may have to reach out to these communities for accurate and valuable preliminary research. Our further research in the next phase of the project will help us determine how we can reach our target demographic so we can understand their needs and develop a product.  

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