YALSA Election: An Interview with YALSA 2017 Printz Award Candidate Edwin Rodarte

Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 24 through May 1, and to help you be an informed voter, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2015 YALSA Governance and 2017 Selection Committee candidates as well as the ALA President-Elect Candidates.

Today we’ll hear from a candidate for the 2017 Printz Award. Members on this committee serve a twelve month term. The committee consists of nine members including a chair. Four members and the chair are appointed and the remaining four members will be elected by the membership of YALSA.

The Printz Award committee’s primary job is to select from the previous year’s publications the best young adult book. A full description of the committee’s duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot.

Today we have an interview with Edwin Rodarte.

Name and current position:
Edwin Rodarte, Adult Services Librarian at Los Angeles Public Library

Besides reading YA materials, what best qualifies you for being a member of this YALSA selection committee?
Literature is a very important part of my life and YA literature has a special place in my heart. It was through YA literature that I was able to connect, find, and eventually face my self identity challenges. I believe in the power of literature and I will seek to find those items that best represent young adults while at the same time exposing the richness of the genre.
One of the main reasons why I know I qualify for this committee is because I strongly believe in its message and will do everything to ensure that YA literature stays relevant in the literary world. Classics are often times “YA” in nature, proving the lasting effects of great literary works. It is our duty as librarians to highlight the literary merits of YA literature and to ensure that teens are exposed to them, because teens, just like everybody else seek essence and depth.
Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the selection committee with selection, evaluation, and working as part of a team.
I have been in past selection committees such as the YALSA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults and the CLA 2013 Beatty Award Committees Being part of a team is a daily occurrence and something that I always look forward to. I love the discussions, debates, and conversations that arise when discussing literature. I love to play devil’s advocate and root for the underdog. If chosen for the selection I will make sure to question decisions, bring forth diversity in literature, evaluate objectively, and ultimately seek the best representation of YA literature published that year.

What role do you think books can play in addressing some of the issues that negatively impact their lives?
I like to think that books are bridges that connect us to our inner self. Why? Because books are personal, singular, and oftentimes reflect upon ourselves. I love YA literature because I can find solace in it, and I hope that teens that read it do as well. Books are impactful not just in addressing a teen’s life but also in supplementing their education. I love when teens can “escape” into a book and find answers. Books offer a transparency that resonates with them. This is especially true when they find themselves on a page. A book is a powerful tool that can leverage negative feelings, issues, problems, and questions. It is the book’s role to be a companion, a guide, and a teacher.
What are some ways the award winning titles can meet the need of teens to have a more expanded view of literacy?
Teens need substance. There is plenty of YA literature that offers an easy escape and are referred to as fluff, but it is this committee’s job to find those titles that immerse a teen in literature and figuratively blow their minds. Classics are classics for a reason, let’s not forget that we want to make sure YA Literature stays relevant. Award winning titles offer teens a realistic portrayal of literature without dumbing down or being condescending to them. Teens need to be aware that there is a genre where they can be challenged and where they can feel satisfied. There is no path from Children, to YA, to Adult, there is simply literature, and we must understand that greatness in a genre transcends labels.

Share a time when you’ve advocated for a library collection to be more influential in the role of a connected learning center and what was the result?
I have always been a great believer in comic books and manga as a gateway to prose and literature. As a teen library assistant at the Ontario City Library, I advocated for the expansion of this collection and managed to increase it substantially. Thanks to this, a new audience of teens started coming to the library and getting connected to programming, resources, and literature. This collection also gave birth to a monthly anime and manga program as well as a graphic novel reading club.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this selection committee?
I don’t pretend to be an expert on YA literature, but I consider myself knowledgeable about it. I would make sure to use my knowledge to objectively evaluate titles. I can bring my personal experiences and bring a bit of diversity to the committee. More than anything, I will bring my passion for literature to ensure that those titles that are selected are representative of the award and of the genre.

Talk about a time when a teen shared with you how a book influenced them.
The reason why I strongly believe in the power of books is because I have seen it first-hand. From the ESL class visits reading the poem “I am Joaquin” by Rodolfo Gonzales to the hidden recommendations in LGBTQ YA literature. Literature is impactful. A perfect example of this is a teen who was afraid of coming out because of his conservative household and who sought stories that resonated with him and validated his identity. Many times, as conduits to books, we must also be prepared to offer advice, whether through local resources or through literature. This teen read most of the LGBTQ booklist that I shared with him and confided in me the impact that the library and books had in progressing with his life and accepting himself. Those are the stories that I am most proud of, up to this day I still keep in touch with that teen, now a photography student at Pratt Institute in New York.

Published by

Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.