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22 September 2016 @ 05:23 pm
Either-Or is NOT a Choice  
I read a blog post today about an award list. The author praised the list as being better than others because it was one from library folks and not critics or authors or others. I cringed at this. I think having a wide array of awards, awards determined by a variety of judges, is a good thing.

As someone who has served on more than a few selection/award committees, I recognize the experience and expertise of the different judges. I have served on YALSA committees where the judges are, to use this blogger's term, library folks. Actually, they ar members of YALSA. I am not a librarian, but I do belong to YALSA. There are many other members like me as well. I do not think my lack of being a library person limited what I contributed to the Printz, Quick Picks, Odyssey, Edwards, or Excellence in Nonfiction, or Morris Committees.

I have served on some selection committees where teachers and children and teens cast votes and I simply coordinated the program. The International Literacy Association's (formerly the International Reading Association) Choices committees provide teachers and kids the chance to voice their favorites. The Walden Committee of ALAN is comprised of a balance among teachers, librarians, and university professors. I have served on that committee (was actually part of the committee that put together the policy for the award) and chaired it as well. I have served as a Cybils judge for several years, too.

And then last year I had the incredible honor of serving on the National Book Award for Young People's Literature committee, serving with a distinguished panel of authors. I have also had the chance to address the committee members who serve on various committees of different professional organizations through webinars and conference presentations. No one on the committees on which I served took the work for granted. Everyone carried the weight of the committee decision willingly.

Each of these committees arrived at their decisions through policy and process. I think each of the lists and award winners reflected the work of the individuals involved. Having different organizations sponsoring awards, different committee compositions, different criteria all serve to strengthen these lists. I celebrate them all. While I know we run the risk of diluting the field when awards seem to be growing exponentially, I also know that some of the newer awards are responsible for honoring books that might otherwise be overlooked.

It is the mentality that one group does it better that bothers me the most. We should embrace and celebrate the different awards, those voted on by kids, those decided by educators of all types. Each list, each recipient, demonstrates to the general public that books are alive and well and literary and worthwhile. I can always support that!
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