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 Edwards Award. Members on this committee serve an eighteenth month term. The committee consists of six virtual members of which three are elected.

The Edwards Award committee’s primary job is to select a living author or co-author whose book or books, over a period of time, have been accepted by young people as an authentic voice that continues to illuminate their experiences and emotions, giving insight into their lives. 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 Mike Pawuk.

Name and current position: Mike Pawuk, Public Services Librarian – Teen Department, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Brooklyn Branch

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.

I’ve served as an ongoing active member of ALA and YALSA since 1996. I’ve been a part of selection committees for Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (2000-2004) and Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2009-2011);  the Michael L. Printz Award (2006), as well as two terms on the Nominating Committee. I served as the chair for the 2002 Getting Graphic @ your library preconference, as well as served on YALSA Graphic Novels Taskforce which helped to create Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection list. In those years I’ve been a trusted committee member, committee chair, and selector who has worked well with other librarians from across the country working towards a common goal on YALSA’s behalf.

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

Teen fiction has always been a comforting source of escape for teens. Like other mediums, fiction can serve as a gateway to escape and entertainment where the reader can find themselves transported to another world, on an adventure of a lifetime, or just finding their own way in a difficult world. Books help introduce them to new beliefs, to challenge their own way of thinking, and help to help inspire a new generation of thinkers for the future. Over the years, I’ve tried to help teens find that one book that can help them find escape, to send them on journeys undiscovered, and to inspire themselves to grow beyond their years. That one book can change lives, and I’m always happy to help a teen find it.

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

Many of the award-winning YALSA titles and authors have covered a broad spectrum of literacies. We’ve seen book that tackle tales of neglect, abuse, suicide, illness, war, poverty, escape – the list of subject matter has painted a broad stroke of life outside for teens to explore. Critical literacy – the ability to have readers learn to respect differences, to consider different viewpoints, and become more self-aware in an ever-global society is important that it helps to reinforce that there’s not one way of thinking. Not everything in life is black and white and the journey of life isn’t a smooth road to discovery: the journey is fraught with bumps, obstacles, potholes, and roadblocks that may test the toughest of us. Though the years the books awarded by YALSA have been a shining example of what teen life is, can be, and has helped to show the reader that life, though it is never easy, can be a place of not only great heartache, but of compassion and love as well.

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’ve served on many YALSA committees including the Michael L. Printz committee over the years. I fully understand that confidentiality is of the utmost concern when discussing finalists for any YALSA awards committee. I would be sure to abide by YALSA’s standards of keeping the discussion of the candidates we will be considering for the committee members only.

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

I’ve served YALSA for over 21 years. Since that time I’ve been a witness to the good that YALSA & ALA has done with their selection and award lists. I’ve seen firsthand the librarians who cheer and applaud the decisions of the hard-working committee members. I’ve recommended to teens many of the titles that were recognized by YALSA on their selection and award lists. It’s so gratifying to be a part of a library community of ALA/YALSA where the combined effort by librarians from all walks of life come together towards a common goal to find the best materials for teens. I look forward to serving on the Edwards Award committee to help make a difference and to change the lives of teens across the country who are looking for that right book and author at the right time.

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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