YALSA Election 2012: An Interview with Excellence in Non-Fiction Award Candidate Scott Robins

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. Don’t forget polls are open from March 19 to April 27.

Today we have an interview with Scott Robins.

What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate for the Excellence in Nonfiction Award?
I have experience on award and selection committees: last year I had the joy of being a judge for the Joe Shuster Comics for Kids award and for the past three years I have been part of the selection committee for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Best Books for Kids and Teens. The assigned material categories change from year to year but this year I’m reviewing graphic novels and non-fiction titles. I am also currently a Youth Services Specialist at Toronto Public Library and have a good understanding of the reading needs of teens. I also have experience evaluating books, writing reviews but also from my previous career in children’s publishing as a buyer for Scholastic Book Clubs.

Why do you want to be a member of this awards committee?
I’ve always admired the passionate work that YALSA has done for youth in libraries and want to be part of that community. Even since I became a librarian, I’ve felt strongly towards connecting teens to books they actually want to read. Non-fiction for teens is an area that I have some familiarity but I want to learn more. This is an amazing opportunity to increase my breadth of knowledge in this category.

What are you most looking forward to in being a part of this award decision process?
I think we’re always looking for excuses to discuss books with people and being on an award jury definitely fulfills that compulsion that librarians all seem to possess. I’m also looking forward to meeting like minded librarians, as well as having a good reason to attend ALA conferences. I used to attend ALA conference in a publisher capacity but I’ve yet to attend one as a librarian.

What do you feel are the key factors for decision-making for the Excellence in Nonfiction Award?

I would say the big ones are accuracy, clarity and presentation. But also, it is important to try and live in the mind of a teen reader and think of questions like: is this book relevant to me?; or does the topic and the design/format/delivery of that topic speak to me?

The reading load for awards committees is very high, how do you plan on managing the work load of award committee life?
Like I said, I’ve been on committees before that require a lot of reading and I’ve learned through trial and error the importance of staying on top of it. I think sticking to a weekly schedule, setting goals and adjusting that schedule and goals at the end of each week is crucial.

What have you learned from past experiences on awards, juries, or other YALSA committees that you will bring with you to this committee?
From my past experiences, I definitely bring a “plays well with others” mentality that includes respect, active listening, flexibility and enthusiasm. In this kind of volunteer work, the importance of fun is always on my mind. In regards to the selection process, I like to encourage other members to look at a book from all perspectives while keeping in mind the target audience, in this case, teens.

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?
There really isn’t a Canadian equivalent of YALSA so I find the awards and selected lists to be a very useful tool in increasing my knowledge of books for teens. The lists keep me informed of the best books for teens and help to identify titles I may have missed. Since YALSA takes selecting committee and jury members seriously, I know these lists are developed by a passionate group of librarians that I can trust.

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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