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 Nonfiction Award. Members on this committee serve a fifteen 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 Nonfiction Award committee’s primary job is to select the best nonfiction title published for young adults between Nov. 1 and Oct. 31 of the current year.

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 Heather Dickerson.

Name and current position: Heather Dickerson, Teen Services Librarian at Lewis & Clark Library in Helena, Montana. I’m an adjunct instructor at Carroll College, where I teach Young Adult Literature.

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 have been the young adult materials selector for Lewis & Clark Library and our branches four years running. In addition to print fiction and non-fiction resources, I also determine what to include in our digital resource collection. I read Booklist, VOYA, and School Library Journal regularly, as well as subscribe to listservs and eNewsletters. I am a member of NetGalley and enjoy getting a sneak peek at upcoming titles!

One of my current projects related to material evaluation and selection relates to the work of YALSA’s Legislation Committee. We are looking at our current advocacy guide with an eye at updating it to reflect how libraries can be effectively engaged in the work of social action. A large part of this work is curating list of teen appropriate resources for young advocates.

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

We partnered with an area youth home as participants in ALA’s Great Stories Club in 2015 and 2016. Our book club read titles featuring teen protagonists struggling with change, identity, romance, and family issues. These titles – mostly fiction – opened the door for hard conversations. When we read March, we used Ruth and the Green Book as an introduction to our discussion about segregation and restriction on movement.

I partner with the Bookmobile Branch of our library to bring literacy-based activities to the school classrooms at Shodair Children’s Hospital, which offers inpatient psychiatric services for youth. I use age appropriate children’s books in each classroom as a way to highlight the joy of reading. Reading becomes a positive experience, connected to developing healthy coping behaviours and strategies for the future. We – Lewis & Clark Library and Shodair Children’s Hospital – have seen the impact of our summer literacy program on patient progress. We love seeing former patients in the library after their release! It makes me feel like we’ve done the really important work of connecting books and people and the things they want to know about.

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

Awards are great for creating visibility and drawing our attention to powerful stories and moments in time. I love nonfiction titles – particularly those for children and young adults – because they are launch pads from one subject into something new and exciting. Nonfiction literature offers readers breadth and depth across subject areas and helps young people identify and explore their own interests.

Understanding how parts and pieces fit together and form a whole is a constant part of navigating our world. Nonfiction titles are a fabulous way for teens to work on their understanding of self and how they fit into the world while absorbing interesting information. I think it’s imperative that nonfiction titles be presented as valuable resources for pleasure as well as assigned reading, and that teen readers are encouraged to read broadly, across formats and genres!

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?

It’s a privilege to serve on a YALSA committee of this caliber; following the rules and high standards is part of the process. Regarding specific actions, I follow the “don’t talk about it” rule!

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

My young adult literature class at Carroll College just finished up “Coffee Klatch” presentations pulled from the last few years of YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction Award longlists. Students were tasked to explore some aspect of their chosen title and present in a short and informal way. The best part of this assignment was the showcase of student interest and learning; I was fascinated by the topics that students connected to their chosen title. A great example of this connection was a klatch inspired by The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century. This student was frustrated by the lack of care and regard given to the crime scene, so she taught us about early forensic history and fingerprinting.

Real life matters! I love readable nonfiction and am passionate about sharing it. As a member of this committee, I will commit myself to reading widely and deeply to identify materials to provide opportunities for readers to see themselves and the world more completely.

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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