YALSA Election 2012: An Interview with Michael L. Printz Candidate Emily Dagg

In February we are posting interviews with each of the 2012 Candidates for YALSA Award Committees. This week we are focusing on Michael L. Printz 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 Printz Committee is charged with selecting from the previous year’s publications the best young adult book (“best” being defined solely in terms of literary merit) and, if the Committee so decides, as many as four Honor Books. The Committee will also have the opportunity for input into the oversight and planning of the Printz Awards Program. Committee size: 9, four to be elected, plus a consultant from the staff of Booklist, and an administrative assistant if requested.

This is your chance to get to know this year’s candidates that have been nominated to serve on the Printz Award Committee.’  Polls are open from March 19 to April 27.

Today we have an interview with Emily Dagg.

What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate for the award position for which you are running?
I’ve been reading YA literature almost exclusively for about 15 years, and I have been tracking my YA reading on Goodreads since 2009. I am also the YA fiction and graphic novel selector for my library system, and I do reader’s advisory and booktalking for teens on a regular basis. I have a lot of experience working on teams and committees, and I served on YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks from 2001-2004, and chaired the 2003 “Flights of Fantasy” Popular Paperbacks sub-committee. My interests and experience are a good fit for the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature committee.

Why do you want to be a member of this awards committee?
I took a break from YALSA committees due to a demanding work schedule at my previous job, then having a baby in 2007. I’ve missed attending ALA and Midwinter on a regular basis and networking with librarians from all over the country. Now that life has settled down, I look forward to attending conferences again as a committee member. Being on a selection list or book award committee would be the best fit for my interests and current recreational reading habits.

What are you most looking forward to in being a part of this award decision process?
I’m most looking forward to being part of a team of people who love YA literature as much as I do, building professional relationships, and expanding my network of library colleagues. I’ve keep in touch with several people I served with on Popular Paperbacks; serving on a committee together can be a great bonding experience. I always returned from conferences energized and excited by all the new ideas I learned about from my fellow committee members, it’s a great way to maintain enthusiasm for the profession. In addition, I would be very proud to have participated in bestowing such a prestigious literary award.

What do you feel are the key factors for decision-making for this award?
The Printz criteria is clearly outlined by YALSA, and stresses literary excellence. While popularity isn’t officially a consideration, the criterion does mention that the winning titles should have a wide audience. So the challenge is finding award winner and honor books that ideally have both: high literary quality and the potential for finding a fairly wide audience over time. Another key factor is that this is a group process. Ideally, the winner is a book that the entire group is passionate about, and everyone on the committee is proud to have their names listed as serving on the award committee for that year.

The reading load for awards committees is very high, how do you plan on managing the work load of award committee life?
Before accepting the nomination, I made sure I had the support of both my library director and my husband, because serving on an award committee is a big time commitment. Luckily, I have their wholehearted support. Also, now that my son is turning 5, I’m finding myself with more free time to read books for myself.

I already read so much YA fiction that doing the reading for Printz will be a pleasure. It will be more reading than I normally do, but the reading will serve multiple purposes. It will support my work as YA selector for my library, give me many new books to choose from when I do booktalking in schools, and improve my ability to do reader’s advisory with teens in the library.

While serving on Popular Paperbacks, I read hundreds of books a year for that committee. Once I got into the habit of reading in every spare moment, it became my lifestyle for four years, and a lifestyle I enjoyed very much. I found there was no better excuse for not doing housework than “I must finish reading this book for the committee I’m on!”

What have you learned from past experiences on awards, juries, or other YALSA committees that you will bring with you to this committee?
I’ve learned that while it’s important to bring your own point of view to the table and advocate for your favorite books, it’s equally important to sit back and listen to other people’s points of view, really hear what they have to say, and look at the books again from a different perspective. It’s a group process, and everyone in the group has valuable insights and deserves to be heard, even if you don’t agree with them. Sometimes, I learn the most from the people I initially disagree with the most. When on an award or selection committee, it’s vital to put aside what you want, and think about how the selected titles will benefit the genre and the profession.

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?
The YALSA lists make my work easier in several ways. Popular Paperbacks does some great genre and theme lists, so my youth services department doesn’t need to create as many lists ourselves from scratch. We refer to these lists frequently when doing reader’s advisory. Also, we use the older YALSA lists as tools for maintaining our core collection of YA literature. Books on these lists are ones we try to keep ample quantities of, and replace as needed, to make them easily available to teens.

There are several schools in our area that use various YALSA lists as suggesting reading for their students, especially BBYA. Many students forget to bring the list with them to the library, or what the name of the list is, so the more tech savvy teachers simply post a link to the YALSA book they’re use on their school or class website. When the students come to the library, we can look up their reading list online, right at the reference desk.