In February we are posting interviews with each of the 2012 Candidates for YALSA Award Committees. This week we are focusing on the Excellence in Non-fiction Award Committee. ‘ Each day this week we’ll post an interview with one of the candidates for that committee. We are posting alphabetically by candidate’s last names. ‘ 

The YALSA Nominating Committee for 2012 has been working hard to select candidates for this year’s election. The Excellence in Nonfiction Award Committee honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year. The Committee is made up of eight members, including the chair. You can read the Committee policies and procedures on the YALSA website.

This is your chance to get to know this year’s candidates nominated to serve on the Excellence in Nonfiction Committee. Polls are open March 19 to April 27.

Today we have an interview with Karen Keys.

What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate for the Excellence in Nonfiction Award?
I’m about to celebrate five years as a librarian, and I want to focus my time and energy on work that will allow me to give back to the division that supported me as a new librarian.

I’ve followed a typical trajectory for participation in YALSA. I started out on a process committee (Technology for Teens), and I’ve been serving on the Alex Awards committee for the last three years. Reading adult books for the committee has been incredibly worthwhile, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to YA. Being on an award committee has helped fine-tune my critical reading skills.

Why do you want to be a member of this awards committee?
I think some librarians and educators have the misconception that only a certain type of teen reader likes to read non-fiction or teens only like to read a certain type of non-fiction. Teens reading tastes are just as varied as adults, and it’s up to us to help them discover their next read.

What are you most looking forward to in being a part of this award decision process?
The simple stuff: the reading, the discussion, and that feeling of excitement once the decision has been made.

What do you feel are the key factors for decision-making for the Excellence in Nonfiction Award?
Many of the award charges are written in a way that is deliberately vague, and each committee interprets it in a different way. It’s important to select books that are going to promote a wider readership of nonfiction, but also ones that are outstanding examples of what the genre can be. Strong writing, impeccable research, and teen appeal are all factors to judge a nonfiction book’s merit.

The reading load for awards committees is very high, how do you plan on managing the work load of award committee life?
It’s necessary to start with a realistic expectation of the workload, an estimate of the total number of titles to be read. As the Alex Awards committee chair, I outlined this for members by explicitly stating that they should expect to read at least 100 titles over 11 months. From there, you aim for nine books a month and monitor whether you’re hitting your targets. If a committee reads 300 books, you work back from there.

Also, you just accept that at certain points, your life belongs to the books. I spent a recent week in Vermont reading by the fire as my friends skied, ice skated, and stomped in the snow.

What have you learned from past experiences on awards, juries, or other YALSA committees that you will bring with you to this committee?
It’s important to select books that teens want to read and not just pick the books we want them to want them to read. I always try to imagine how I would book talk a title, and think about what type of reader would choose this selection.

In your experience how has the YALSA Awards and Selected Lists helped you as a librarian, or made your work better or easier or different than expected?
Librarians don’t always have as much time as they would like to spend collection evaluation/development. YALSA Awards and Selected Lists are additional aids that can be used in selection. When I started out as a young adult librarian, I used lists like PPYA and Quick Picks to discover possible “holes” in my collection.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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