Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 13 through April 5, and to help you be an informed voter, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2017 YALSA Governance and 2019 Selection Committee candidates.

Today we’ll hear from a candidate for the 2019 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 and YALSA Election FAQs here.

Today we have an interview with Anna Tschetter.

Name and current position: Anna Tschetter, Teen and Reference Librarian, Memorial Hall Library, Andover, MA

Talk about the experiences and expertise you’re bringing to the award committee in terms of material evaluation and selection, and as working as part of a team.

My experience in selection comes from being in charge of collection development for the teen section in my libraries, first independently and then as part of a team. When I worked at a smaller library I had a modest budget, so building a well-rounded and diverse collection could be a challenge. At my new library, our budget is much more reasonable and it has provided me with more freedom to search more widely for great teen literature.

As I mentioned, I’ve been happy to work both independently and as a team when it comes to book selection. In general, I prefer to work as part of a team when discussing book selection, because I find that it’s helpful and necessary to have multiple perspectives. Just as our patrons have multiple perspectives, we as librarians must seek out those who are able to select the best books for our readers.

Finally, my experiences reviewing books for Women Write About Comics and my own personal blog has given me the time to slow down and really think about the books that I’m reading. I appreciate the difference between reading for pleasure and trying to read with a more critical eye. I love both of these kinds of reading, but am looking forward to more critical reading opportunities.

Talk about the ways you’ve leveraged literature with teens to address some of the issues that negatively impact their lives.

In my experience as both a reader and a librarian, I have found that literature is one of the best ways to make sense of difficult situations. The best literature allows teens to be introspective, looking inward to see how they can relate to the characters in their books, while also expanding their minds to different situations and life experiences. It’s so exciting when a teen tells me that they really related to one character or that they understood the struggles of another.

Specifically, I can recall talking to a teen about the works of A.S. King and how she appreciates King’s feminist viewpoint, and the teen’s continuing frustration of books that include “misogynistic romances.” This reader didn’t need any more of that in her life, so I was happy to help her find books that were more feminist and dismissive of traditional gender roles.

What are some ways award-winning titles can be used to help teens acquire critical skills across multiple literacies?

I believe that reading – fiction, in particular – can be one of the best ways for teens to stretch and develop their critical thinking skills. There is something special about the way that fiction can both put a reader at a distance from events, while simultaneously immersing them in a story This allows readers to confront real life issues in ways that are difficult to achieve in the everyday workings of life. Reading titles that have achieved this status of literary merit asks teens to not only confront, but grapple with various different literacies. Narratives with devices such as unreliable narrators or multiple points of view challenge teens to think critically about what is being presented as “true” to a character and what other interpretations of “truth” could be. Or a book that has characters dealing with police violence and getting involved with the Black Lives Matter movement may help readers see their own culture reflected, start to learn about a different culture, or even become interested in political activism. Even graphic novels, which have been recognized by Printz committees on occasion, ask teen readers to engage multiple literacy skills on top of being able to navigate the visual literacy skills needed to interpret a text, illustrations, and the way that the two interact to tell a story.

Serving on an award committee requires strict confidentiality and high ethical standards.  What actions would you take to ensure there were no lapses in confidentiality or ethics?

I understand that being a part of an award selection committee is a privilege and that it is a very important task. I will do everything in my power to assure that I am evaluating books impartially, and will be constantly questioning that impartiality throughout the process. Per YALSA’s Social Media policies for award committees, I will be tracking my reading in a private spreadsheet as opposed to Goodreads or some other service. Additionally, I will not be blogging, reviewing, or tweeting about any books that I’ll be reading, or conversing with others online about what I’m reading.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this award committee?

Working with teens, seeing their creativity, openness, and possibilities, is what drives me every day. I find myself constantly telling my peers how excited I am about what teens can accomplish and what they will do as adults. These amazing teens deserve amazing literature, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to help guide them toward those works. I am committed to seeking out the best that Young Adult literature can offer, and keeping my mind open to books of all kinds. I think that the Printz award plays an important role in highlighting quality literature to teen readers and proving to the wider book world that the often-maligned YA section has just as many books of true literary merit as the adult and children’s sections do.

About Casey McCoy

Casey McCoy is a Librarian at San Jose Public Library and earned her MSLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014. She has a passion for working with teens as well as discovering ways to use technology as a community engagement tool. Her thoughts on libraries, technology and attempts at adulting can be found on Twitter @CayMcCoy.
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