Among the many selection and award committees choosing books at ALA Annual in Las Vegas this year, Traci Glass and I (pictured) served on Great Graphic Novels For Teens’ June 28-29‘ and put together this Q&A to give people an idea of what selection committees are like.
Rather than come up with our own questions, I asked some of my library’s Teen Center residents to prompt us. As it turns out, they didn’t know quite what to ask. I rephrased the task: â€œImagine I just told you I was one of eleven people to vote on the Oscars. What would you want to know?â€ The following questions were rapidly delivered.
How did you get on the selection committee?
Traci: I love comics and graphic novels!’ My mom actually bought me my first comic when I was, like, 12 or 13; it was part of the Batman:’ Death in the Family arc, and from that moment on, I’ve been hooked on them.’ Luckily, when I became the Teen librarian here at the Eugene Public Library, I was put in charge of selection for YA materials, which included the YA graphic novel section as well as the Kids’ graphic novel section, so I’ve been able to make my love of comics part of my job, too!’ I’ve been a member of YALSA for 7 years, and all that time I thought about applying to be a part of a selection committee.’ Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to read YA fiction, but I was never motivated enough to apply for any of the traditional selection committees until I saw that a graphic novel selection committee had been developed.’ I thought about it for a couple of years, and then this past year, I decided to apply.’ I wasn’t immediately chosen, so I took the President’s advice and volunteered to write for YALSA’s blog, The Hub.’ I figured I could write all about the comics and graphic novels I was enjoying and then apply next year.’ But, lo and behold, a person who was on the committee decided not to continue, and they emailed me to see if I was still interested!’ Boy, was I ever!’ I was so excited to be asked to be a part of this awesome committee!
Thomas: I applied for the GGNFT committee when old committee members’ terms expired and there was room for new members. YALSA has committees just for selecting people to serve on other committees, so I must have looked good on paper! My guess is, my work and personal history with comics made me a compatible choice for evaluating them full-time.
What were the committee meetings like? How much fun were they?
Thomas: So fun. I generally don’t have enough people to discuss/argue comics with me on a daily basis, so reading a giant pile of them and debating their merits at a table of smart, persuasive colleagues is as close to book club heaven as I will ever get. We meet twice per year, once over the summer at ALA Annual and again during Midwinter, usually in January. Each meeting takes up two or three days of hours-long meetings, but the time goes by quickly when I am trying to give each book its just desserts. Speaking of dessert, we are good at bringing snacks for everyone to nibble during meetings.
Traci: Being as this is my very first selection committee, I wasn’t sure what to expect.’ I came in that first day of discussions nervous and shy.’ I wasn’t sure how much to talk or what exactly I should be saying.’ Luckily, we have a great Chairman in Marcus; he is a great facilitator and definitely makes everyone feel comfortable and able to share!’ We all have paddles which definitely helps someone like me; I find it hard to just talk out loud in group settings, so the paddles allowed for me to let them know I’d like to say something.’ And, they were so much fun!’ How great is it to be a part of a group where everyone’s read all the books, and they are all passionate about comics!’ I’ve never been part of a group like this before, and I was so happy to be welcomed and accepted into this awesome group of people!
How many nominees were there? How much do each of you read?
Traci: There are a lot of nominees so far â€“ and more to come before Midwinter in January!’ I read all of the nominees, and I was (and am) always looking out for new exciting titles to share with my fellow committee members.’ I really love reading superhero comics â€“ DC stuff, especially, but this committee got me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to read books that are now my absolute favorite books ever!’ I look for stuff in my collection as well as at my local comic book store and through comics blogs and Twitter.
Thomas: Last year, there were over 120 nominees, but we read far more titles than that. Like Traci, I keep an eye out for new and continuing series, advance copies, word of mouth, comics journalism, and what’s new on the local shelves to find titles for the final list. I read comics in print and digitally, borrowed from the library and bought with my own money. Publishers will sometimes send us advance copies or PDFs of their books. Each member has their own specialty or method of finding new titles, and we each bring something unique to the table.
What did all of you do before you voted?
Thomas: We argued â€“ a lot! I mean â€œargueâ€ in the debate team sense, not negatively. Even a book with a majority of yes votes will receive considerable commentary, as everyone’s feelings come out one at a time. Teen feedback about nominees can be pivotal in swinging someone’s vote off the fence. There is often discussion of a book’s quality versus its appeal â€“ we want the final list to be interesting and diverse, but it should also reflect the best that comics have to offer, too. Finding that balance can be tricky â€“ I’ve been argued into voting against my own nominees before!
Traci: Before we voted, we had a lot of discussions!’ And, it was so enlightening and funny and entertaining!’ I loved â€œarguingâ€ and debating the merits of the books with everyone else.’ Every book was discussed thoroughly and completely, and it was fun hearing everyone else’s opinions.’ Our group is so great; I felt that everyone was comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings on all the books without fear of being laughed at.
Do all of you still get along after voting?â€‹
Traci: We definitely had some intense discussions (one book in particular, I remember in great detail!’ 🙂 )!’ But, everyone respected everyone else’s opinions and feelings.’ I felt totally comfortable debating someone and letting them know why I disagreed with them.’ As a new member, I wasn’t sure how these more difficult conversations would go, but I was so heartened to see us be able to maturely debate the aspects of a certain title, and then still come together as a group afterwards.’ We really are an awesome group!
Thomas: I am extremely grateful to confirm this one. Both of my years with Great Graphic Novels For Teens have been civil and well-argued. While we care about which books do and don’t make the final list, nobody condescends, name-calls, or resorts to personal attacks. Sometimes a committee member will be a lone island against the overwhelming majority, but on the next title that person will have all new allies. Sometimes committee members will go out to dinner or attend other convention events together, and I’ve stuck around after meetings to continue interesting conversations.
Thomas Maluck has been a teen services librarian for Richland Library in South Carolina’ since 2010, specializing in teen programming, ebooks,’ graphic novels, and gaming. He is serving his last year on YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels For Teens selection committee (2013-2014),’ writes and reviews for No Flying, No Tights, and recommends comics on the Richland Library blog. He has spoken and presented about graphic novels at several conventions, including ALA Annual, DragonCon, NashiCon, ColaCon, and the South Carolina Book Festival. His articles have appeared in Library Trends, Public Libraries, and The Hub.â€‹
Traci Glass is the Teen Services Librarian and the selector of graphic reads for kids and teens for the Eugene Public Library system in Eugene, Oregon.’ She reviews comics, graphic novels and teen books for School Library Journal, Eugene’s newspaper, The Register Guard, and the graphic novel review site, No Flying No Tights.’ She is currently the coordinator of the OYAN (Oregon Young Adult Network) Graphic Novel Book Rave, a yearly list of Oregon librarians favorite graphic reads for teens, and is in the middle of her first year YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee.