Serving on the Printz Committee

When I was elected to the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award Committee, I was excited and nervous.’  I was excited to have such a great opportunity, to help recognize the book that made the highest contribution to young adult literature.’  But I was nervous because wow, that’s a big responsibility, picking the best book of the year!

At least, I told myself, I had served on another selection committee in the past and had some familarity with the process: with the YALSA nomination forms, with how the workflow would go, things like that.’  Yet even with that knowledge, I’ve been surprised at what serving on the Printz Committee is actually like.’  So here are some things to know if you’ve ever considered standing for election to the Printz Committee.

1)’  Communication is vital. A lot of discussion goes on via email: talking about potential nominees and asking questions about books you’ve read.’  It’s through email that our committee has laid a lot of groundwork for in-person discussions.’  In addition, we’ve done monthly chats via IM to talk about nominated titles.’  The chats let each member sound off on nominees–I’ve found that they help me prioritize my Printz To-Be-Read pile.

2)’  In-person discussion matters. Getting to put faces to the names on emails and chats is something special.’  By talking in person, you learn a lot about the other people on your committee as well as about the books you’re discussing.’  Something about the free flow of information and ideas being exchanged can create magic.’  And when you’re in a room with the same people for eight hours over two days, magic is definitely a bonus!

3)’  You read a lot. You’d think this would go without saying, but it’s really true.’  You’re reading all kinds of books, and not just the ones that everyone are talking about.’  While we’re reading books that get starred reviews and the books that have a lot of buzz, we’re also searching for and reading the books that are flying under the radar and haven’t attracted a lot of attention yet.’  You’ve got to turn over a lot of rocks to find the books that stand out.

4) Advocate! This is a lesson I’m trying to learn for myself–it’s one thing to talk about how much you love a book.’  Eventually, you have to put the rubber to the road and nominate it.’  By nominating it, you’re the one who leads the discussion in chats and at in-person meetings, which can be a daunting thought.’  But if you think a book is worthy, you should stand up for it.’  And this goes for non-Printz Committee members as well: did you know that you can field nominate a title for the Printz?

Already, at only the half-way point in my term, I’ve learned so much as a member of the Printz Committee.’  It’s taught me to look at books in a different way and given me new confidence in my reader’s advisory skills.’  And I’ve read books that I would have only grudgingly picked up and discovered that they were excellent books.

Do you want to experience this kind of thrill?’  Then volunteer for one of YALSA’s selection committees!’  Learn more about selection committees through this post from Sarah Flowers , or take the time to attend the e-chat on August 4th, which will be about selection committees.’  If you’re ready for a bigger challenge, consider standing for election for one of YALSA’s award committees.’  Election info can be found at the YALSA Wiki.

YALSA’s awards and selected lists wouldn’t be possible without you–so consider getting involved to see what you learn!

About Melissa Rabey

I'm a teen librarian for a library system in Maryland. I became a librarian because I love books, I love technology, and I wanted to connect people with those two things. I'm happy that I get to do all this and even more.
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