YALSA Election 2012: An Interview with Michael L. Printz Award Candidate Jennifer Lawson

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 Committee.’ Polls are open from March 19 to April 27.

Today we have an interview with Jennifer Lawson

What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate for the award position for which you are running?

I think my best preparation for the Printz Award Committee is in having read 1000+ books written for teens in my years as a librarian.’  In addition, I keep current with the literature by participating in YALSA-bk and reading blogs, professional journals, and publisher communications.

On the professional front, I’ve been a librarian with the San Diego County Library for more than 10 years.’  For the first four years, I was the Youth Services Librarian at the Santee Branch.’  I was able to focus more of my time on teen services here, because much of the children’s programming was done by volunteers.’  I also re-discovered teen literature in this position and have been reading it almost exclusively ever since.’  I’ve been at our library headquarters for the past 6 years, first as the Teen Services Coordinator and now as Program Services Librarian.

Since 2008, I have served on several YALSA committees.’  My first committee was the 2008-09 Odyssey Award Committee.’  I feel lucky to have served under an excellent and experienced chair (Pam Spencer-Holley), who kept things running smoothly and made it easy to participate and learn along the way.’  Currently, I am finishing up a two year term on Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, the last of which I was chair.’  I also served on two task forces:’  the Young Adult Literature Symposium Task Force, 2009-11 and YALSA’s Midwinter Pre-Conference Task Force, 2011.

I’m a hard worker and I like to get involved, so I also participate on committees at the State level and present at conferences.’  Some of my accomplishments include:

Served on the California Summer Reading Advisory Council since 2008, as chair 2010-11.

Represented California as a voting member to Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), 2010-11.

Presented on the latest and greatest teen literature at the 2009, 2010 and 2011 California Library Association conferences with Courtney Saldana (Upland Public Library) and Joann Jonas (San Diego County Library).’  This is definitely my favorite presentation.’  We always have a good audience and have fun talking about books.

Presented Teen Programs in a Box at PLA 2008.

Locally, I volunteer on the Board of Directors for the Juvenile Court Book Club (JCBC) and chair their book selection committee.’  The JCBC is a volunteer run organization that leads monthly book clubs at five different juvenile detention sites.’  I lead one of the book club sessions most months.’  It’s something I really look forward to as the discussions are always lively and full of opinions!

Why do you want to be a member of this awards committee?

Every year, I eagerly await the award announcements – none so much as the Printz.’  For someone who is immersed in the world of teen literature it would be an honor to serve on the committee and help choose the winner for an award that’s so meaningful to myself and our profession.

What are you most looking forward to in being a part of this award decision process?

My favorite part of participating on a committee is the collaborative decision making process at conference.’  Being holed up in a small room, hashing out differences and finally coming to a decision that everyone can stand by is intense, but also very exciting.

What do you feel are the key factors for decision-making for this award?

The main thing to consider is that the Printz is based on literary excellence.’  So while you may have really loved a specific title – it may have even been your favorite book of the year – that doesn’t mean it should win the award.’  Because literary excellence can be exemplified in different books in different ways, it’s hard to say that one factor is more important versus another.

The reading load for awards committees is very high, how do you plan on managing the work load of award committee life?

I managed a heavy work load when I was on both the Odyssey and Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults.’  For me, managing this is all about choices.’  When you’re on a committee, there are times when you just want to go home and watch a movie or play mindless games on the computer.’  But…you’ve made a commitment to the committee and so you open a book or turn on an audiobook instead.’  That said, it’s also important to give yourself a night off every once in a while, so you don’t burn out.’  I also try to maximize my time throughout the day.’  So I’ll read not only at the usual times, like on my lunch break, but also for 15 minutes of down time here and there.’  Then again, I think we all do that!’  Ok and I’ll admit, several years ago I started reading while walking the 1/8-1/4 mile to and from lunch, because when you’re in the middle of a good book, who wants to waste that time just walking?

 

What have you learned from past experiences on awards, juries, or other YALSA committees that you will bring with you to this committee?

Being on previous committees has given me a greater understanding of how the process works and what to expect through the different stages of the committee.’  I’ve learned how to manage my time to complete the work, pay attention to my kid (Gabriel, age 7 – but I promise not to show you pictures at conference…unless you ask) and still manage to find some down time to relax.’  Having now chaired a selection committee, I think I’m also better able to see how my position as a member of a committee functions as part of the whole.

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?

YALSA’s Awards and Selection Lists have been an invaluable resource to me in my work with teens.’  When I was at the branch, I used the monthly nominations lists from the different Selected Lists, plus the final lists themselves to help me make collection development decisions.’  They were/are also great as reader’s advisory tools.’  Not every teen will love the award winner, but most every teen will find something interesting on the Selected Lists.’  Now that I’m at our library headquarters, I mainly use the Awards and Selected Lists when I’m working on bibliographies or looking for good books for my online book club (join us at http://sdclteenbooks.ning.com!).’  Quick Picks is also a great resource when I’m looking for high interest books for the teens at the juvenile detention sites.’  I use Best Fiction for this too, however, because the girls especially have really branched out to more than just the high interest titles.

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