professornana (professornana) wrote,

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The world is watching. Well, I am.

It seems as if the ballyhoos had just barely ceased (the spots on the stage at the ALA Youth Media Awards Press Conference spun with the naming of each winner: we were told this was a ballyhoo) before the second guessing began on the listservs. Why this book and not that? It began innocently enough with some folks asking mostly about the Printz winner and honor books. The discussion became heated because of a post that was ill considered but well intentioned (we could have done nicely without the vulgarity and name calling, thank you). Before long, the listserv was abuzz with all manner of posts. Why even have a literary award? Why not factor appeal into the literary awards? How could books that had received great reviews not be on the list of winning titles? Basically, it was the usual display of "Monday morning quarterbacking" that we see after playoff and Superbowl games. So far, the "discussion" has spawned more than 1200 posts in just a few days.

It is easy to do this sort of second guessing. Before I had served on a selection committee, I often wondered about the winning titles, too. And then came a committee assignment. I have served on Quick Picks, Edwards, Morris, Nonfiction, Printz, and this year on Odyssey. As a result of this service I am acutely aware of the dedication to the task such service requires. When someone serves, for instance, on the Printz, the books being considered as the process proceeds to the final deadline are scrutinized. They are read and read and read over and over again. I still have books from my Printz term that were, ultimately, not on the final list. The marginalia and the feathering of post it stickers is incredible. That is just my OWN notation. As we sat in discussions in the committee meetings, there are even more notes. We go back to our rooms in the evening and read again. More notes. Finally, there are the final discussions and the balloting. Committee work is not for the faint of heart or for those who want to have a LIFE during their term of service.

So, here's the deal: let's have a talk about the winning titles. But let's do it AFTER we have read the books in question. Let's do it according tot he award criteria and not the criteria we want instead. And let's please be professional. What cut me to the quick were the folks on the listserv who declared that kids would never read these books, that they would not purchase them, that literary cannot appeal. What was even worse, though, is what has happened since this first burst of talk. The second wave of postings consisted of airing all the classics hated by the people posting. Bashing the classics might be an appropriate label for the latest flood (hundreds of them at last count). Later today, it got even worse when folks started recommending AR for teachers looking for a quick way to ascertain if their kids were reading outside of class.

If I were an outsider to the profession (and I AM in certain ways as I am not a librarian), I would walk away from all this talk wondering why people who ere librarians had some much hatred for books, awards, committees, and the like. I just hope that this all dies down and we go back to a more considered tone. Please, folks, the world is watching. Let's demonstrate the power of books and reading, libraries, and librarians.

I will say it one more time: if you love a book that did not win an award, bring that love to readers. But I also urge you to read the award winners. See what you think AFTER you have read the winning titles. Some of my favorite books this year did NOT win a major award. That does not lessen their value for me and for the readers to whom I will connect them.
Tags: civility, discussions, haters, winners
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