Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 24 through May 1, and to help you be an informed voter, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2015 YALSA Governance and 2017 Selection Committee candidates as well as the ALA President-Elect Candidates.

Today we’ll hear from a candidate for the 2017 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.

Today we have an interview with Jeanette Johnson.

Name and current position:
Jeanette Johnson/ Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Chair 2014-2015

Besides reading YA materials, what best qualifies you for being a member of this YALSA selection committee?
I work with teens every day. I am a middle school librarian in Temple City Unified serving 991 students and I also work part time in the youth services department of the Monrovia Public Library.

Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the selection committee with selection, evaluation, and working as part of a team.
I get to see what is popular with all ages of teens and what circulates best at both a public school and a public library. I served three years on the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California Award committee and two years on YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, the second year as Chair. I am familiar with a totally virtual environment as well as physical group meetings. I am comfortable with, and will look forward to, the amount of books I will need to read for the committee.

What role do you think books can play in addressing some of the issues that negatively impact their lives?
Books are important for a variety of reasons. They can provide an escape from reality, share experiences that a teen may be facing, and give additional perspectives or much needed information as well as support a teen who may not be comfortable asking questions.

What are some ways the award winning titles can meet the need of teens to have a more expanded view of literacy?
Awards are an important part of book selection. There are so many books published that making decisions about what to buy, recommend, and read can be daunting. The Margaret Edwards Award for a body of work is a great way to expand a teens’ perspective. Generally speaking, if a teen likes a book, they will want to read another by the same author. Once they exhaust that author, they will be ready for another recommendation. Award winning titles are a great place to start.

Share a time when you’ve advocated for a library collection to be more influential in the role of a connected learning center and what was the result?
Last year I teamed up with our high school librarian to apply for a grant to bring the Overdrive system to our secondary school sites. We received a grant for $8000 from our School’s Foundation. Together we created the database of e-books and audiobooks. After launch, and our students learned how to use the program, we worked with our teachers to get our students public library cards so they could access the much larger Overdrive database and extend our collection. Our students now have access to books 24 hours a day, they know how to access library books on multiple devices and they have multiple databases available for them to use through the public library.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this selection committee?
The more experience I have on selection committees, the better prepared I am to meet the needs of my teens. I think it is important for my students to know I am an advocate for them. The more I am connected with YA literature, the better I can help my students find the right book. I encourage young adults to read the nominated books on all of the YALSA committees and write reviews to share with their colleagues. I spotlight the committees I serve and the Teens Top 10 program. I have a Teen advisory board which helps with all of the Teen programing on campus and provides input on book selection for our library.

Talk about a time when a teen shared with you how a book influenced them.
A teen told me a story of how the Harry Potter series helped her become an avid reader. This student always struggled with reading because she had not found the right type of book that made reading interesting. The first two books were read aloud at night with a parent. When the third book was published,she was in middle school and checked out the book. She could not put it down. She finished the series and has been a fan of fantasy ever since!

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.

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