The Future of Best Books for Young Adults

Once again the YALSA Board has a proposal about BBYA before it, and once again controversy seems to have erupted. Discussion–sometimes heated–on various blogs and Twitter streams has left many librarians wondering if we’re in for a repeat performance of the overcrowded, emotional Board meeting in Chicago last July.

Before anyone goes hunting for extra folding chairs, however, YALSA would like to clarify some information about the proposal.


While there is mention on blogs and lists that the document being discussed and those leading up to its creation have not been publicized, the full text of the proposal–along with every item on the Board agenda, and minutes from past meetings–is available online.
There has been some concern about the timing of these documents, but the Board agenda and documents represent a year round process that involves dozens of people and hundreds of hours of work from many committees, task forces and individuals. The full timeline for the development of these documents could be a post in itself (and maybe it will!) but here’s the short version: work on the Midwinter agenda topics and documents literally begins at the close of Annual. Board members, committees, ad hoc groups, task forces, and the Executive Committee all take part in the process of getting work done and planning for what will be accomplished at Midwinter.’ YALSA’s goal is always to have Final Board documents finished and online for members two weeks prior to Midwinter.

The selection committee for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction will publish its full list of nominations. This is a rigorous selection process that will ultimately recognize more nonfiction titles than BBYA ever has.
In the past four years, BBYA averaged about 14 titles per year. The Nonfiction Award selection committee will recommend about 30 titles annually. Some critics of the BBYA proposal believe that these nonfiction titles are chosen on literary merit alone; this is incorrect. Committee policies clearly state that the finalist and winning titles must “include excellent writing, research, presentation and readability for young adults.” (Emphasis added.)

Board members make decisions on behalf of the membership, but they are, and always have been, open to questions, concern and discussion from the membership.
All agendas, Board documents and meeting minutes from the past five years are online for anyone to view. Since Annual, the Board discussed the selected lists proposal during their August meeting (a conference call that was open to anyone who wanted to listen in; information about was posted on the YALSA homepage a month in advance) and the Executive Committee discussed it at its face to face October meeting. Each time, President Linda Braun gave prior notice via a blog post and shared the link to the document.

The Board was elected by the YALSA membership, and the Board is given the authority via YALSA’s bylaws to govern and make decisions for the Association. Every committee, jury and task force has a Board liaison. These liaisons work with member groups to help troubleshoot problems and provide support.’ Contact information for each Board member is clearly listed on the YALSA website.

As conversations about the BBYA proposal continue, it is important that all interested parties read the actual documents in question rather than pass along misinformation–and that we all continue to treat our colleagues with the civility and respect we deserve. If we hope to teach teens to be savvy information consumers, we must be able ourselves to distinguish fact from rumor.

Like the Board, the YALSA blog welcomes discussion on the BBYA proposal or any other item on the Board agenda for Midwinter, so long as that discussion is grounded in good faith and accurate information.

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.
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One Comment

  1. Linda,

    Thanks for this.

    It would also be helpful to post on YALSA-BK that BBYA changes are being considered and we welcome your input here (with addresses or links). The first time around I missed it because the wording did not make it clear to me that BBYA was the subject. BBYA is important enough for its own subject heading. It is not so much that the information was absent but that we should have been much more visible (using Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc) in getting the word out more abundantly and more clearly.

    Also if the root problem for BBYA is the workload (this is what I believe), why not experiment with a proposal that takes care of just that variable? Increasing the number of committee nominations to discuss the book would, I believe, solve that problem. If the problem is the overlap in the lists or the quality of the lists, I still think that YALSA should first determine whether the quality is influenced by the size of the workload (see above recommendation).

    Personally I think that there is value in having a group examine all books for teens. I don’t mind, in fact I enjoy the overlap. I also think that a better understanding and training (BBYA required program at annual/midwinter for prospective members?) are also improvements.

    I have more but these are the main ideas and I am typing on my iPhone. I am hoping to run into you sometime in Boston to share and discuss and argue (politely) some more! The thanks are very sincere. Take care!

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