Thoughts about Book Selection Lists

enhanced-buzz-24540-1374618713-43In the afterglow of the Youth Media Awards comes the distribution of YALSA’s latest selection lists. These lists have long been resources for both readers’ advisory and collection development, keeping library staff abreast with the new and wonderful. There was a time when the Best Books for Young Adults list (now re-envisioned as the more narrowly focused Best Fiction for Young Adults) delivered many new book choices for library staff to add to the young adult collection.

That was then. Now it’s not unusual for library staff working for and with teens to discover books before they are even published, via web sites like NetGalley, Edelweiss, or by direct publisher contact. There are many networking opportunities, including the yalsa-bk listserv, that crackle with vitality, producing on-the-spot book recommendations and compiled lists.  The YALSA Hub has hundreds of lists on current topics. In addition, there are fabulous blogs about young adult literature, some by library workers, and some by teens. Surely YALSA’s carefully chosen book selections should be somewhere in this swell of activity. Unfortunately, they don’t generate the buzz of online exploration and discovery.

We can do better. It’s time for transformation!

8792688521_2f7538d895_mrHere’s an example. In 1988, YALSA (then YASD) compiled five annual genre lists, covering  Horror, Mystery, Romance, Sports, and Science Fiction. Eventually, Fantasy, Humor, and Historical Fiction were also included. In 1996, these lists were replaced by the Popular Paperbacks selection committee.

The Popular Paperbacks list continues the process of compiling  topical lists. The committee chooses topics that might be of ongoing interest to teens, such as the genres above. The books must be available in paperback, to keep them within easy purchasing range. It allowed libraries to stay on top of teen reading fads without breaking the budget.

It was a fabulous idea – twenty years ago.

But the appeal of paperbacks has changed over the past two decades. They used to look cool stuffed in the back pocket of blue jeans. Tucked inside a textbook, they allowed teens to read Judy Blume instead of history. Those paperback spinners that once housed countless volumes of Babysitter’s Club and Fear Street serials now are storage headaches. Current paperbacks are often too large to fit in the spinners. Add in the growing popularity of e-books, and Popular Paperbacks just doesn’t sound very hip.

girl readingBut dynamic lists on fascinating topics? Always in demand.

I certainly don’t mean to pick on the Popular Paperbacks committee. It’s dear to my heart because I served on that committee for three years; I met a lot of great library folk and learned much from them. And the 2016 chair, Katie Salo, led her committee in developing some awesome lists. Thank you, and all of those who worked so hard on this year’s impressive selection lists.

The YALSA Board is currently involved in organizational planning, driven by the call to action in YALSA’s Futures Report. In taking a step back, we can really focus on how best to build YALSA so that it is aligned with the vision of teen services as outlined in the report. With that momentum, we are well-positioned to support members as we all strive to build a futures-focused teen program at our libraries.  The Board is working with an expert on organizational planning who has encouraged us to embrace an “everything is on the table” approach that allows us to think about  the kinds of support members need most, including collection development and content curation, and how we best provide that.

This topic and its relation to selected lists like PPYA is actually just one example of what the board will be considering once a new plan is in place and the work of aligning existing programs, services, initiatives and resources begins.  The goal is to have a draft plan put together by early Feb., work throughout the month to refine it and have a final, new plan in place by March 1.  The aligning work will take place after that and lead to the development of proposals for the board’s consideration, most likely at their meeting in June.

To keep up to date on the organizational planning process, check the YALSAblog for regular updates. And join YALSA president Candice Mack for her Member Town Halls on Twitter via the #yalsachat hashtag. The next one will be Friday, Feb. 5, noon to 1:00 pm (Eastern).

It’s a good time to look ahead.

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