YALSA Election 2012: An Interview with Excellence in Non-Fiction Award Candidate Renee McGrath

In February we are posting interviews with each of the 2012 Candidates for YALSA Award Committees. This week we are focusing on the Excellence in Non-fiction Award Committee. ‘ Each day this week we’ll post an interview with one of the candidates for that committee. We are posting alphabetically by candidate’s last names. ‘ 

The YALSA Nominating Committee for 2012 has been working hard to select candidates for this year’s election. The Excellence in Nonfiction Award Committee honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year. The Committee is made up of eight members, including the chair. You can read the Committee policies and procedures on the YALSA website.

This is your chance to get to know this year’s candidates nominated to serve on the Excellence in Nonfiction Committee. Polls are open from March 19 to April 27.

Today we have an interview with Renee McGrath.

What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate for the Excellence in Nonfiction Award?
I have served on Popular Paperbacks for YAs (2 years) and just finished my term on the 2012 Newbery Award Selection Committee. Both of these committees gave me the experience of working with a big group of people on how to come to a decision about a book and whether or not it should either be included on a list or was worthy of an award. I also learned a lot about critically evaluating titles for an award. It is a different kind of reading. You must set aside your personal beliefs and interests and only look at the book for what it offers the reader in regards to the criteria of the award.

Why do you want to be a member of this awards committee?
I have always had a special place in my heart for nonfiction geared for younger people. I think part of that is professional and most of it is personal. When my son was young, nonfiction books would make him come alive! As he got older, it was sometimes the only thing I could get him to read. So, I came to really appreciate having excellent nonfiction available at my public library. It was not something I could afford to purchase on my own. I know what a good nonfiction book can mean to a parent who is struggling to get a child to read. When I became a librarian serving youth, I also realized the value of an excellent nonfiction book. It was something I could rely on when doing readers’ advisory. I would also use them in class visits. Many times, it was the nonfiction titles that went out first.

What are you most looking forward to in being a part of this award decision process?
Everything! Getting the books, reading them, critically evaluating them, and ultimately working with the committee to select the winner.

What do you feel are the key factors for decision-making for the Excellence in Nonfiction Award?
I will have to study the policies and procedures a bit before being completely knowledgeable on how the committee comes to their decision. However, I do know that we will look at the writing, making sure it is written in an engaging manner. We will also make sure that the information presented is accurate and organized in such a way that it is clear to the young adult reader.

The reading load for awards committees is very high, how do you plan on managing the work load of award committee life?
I was able to manage the reading load for both Popular Paperbacks and Newbery, so I don’t think I will have a problem with this one. I have become very good at using my iPad to organize my notes and schedules.

What have you learned from past experiences on awards, juries, or other YALSA committees that you will bring with you to this committee?
To always keep an open mind and listen to everyone.

In your experience, how has the YALSA Awards and Selected Lists helped you as a librarian, or made your work better or easier or different than expected?
Anytime a subject list of titles is made available or a book receives an award by YALSA, it helps highlight them and make them known to a wider audience. This is always a good thing and helps bring attention to books that may not have had much readership beforehand.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.
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