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 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.

Today we have an interview with Kefira Philippe.

Name and current position:
Kefira Philippe, Librarian, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL

Besides reading YA materials, what best qualifies you for being a member of this YALSA selection committee?
I have been a middle and high school librarian for over nine years while also working at the teen space at the local public library. On a daily basis I provide young adults with readers advisory and I make all the selections for my collection. In addition to having taken courses on young adult literature and book awards for children and young adults, I have extensive experience as a reader, evaluator, and reviewer. Completing the required reading will not pose a problem as I am a quick reader with excellent time management skills who can read at least one, sometimes two books a day.

Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the selection committee with selection, evaluation, and working as part of a team.
I have years of experience with selection, evaluation, and being a team member. I have served on the Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee for 2015 and am currently serving my second term for 2016. I have served on two Illinois State Book Award Committees – the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award on the reading committee and the Abraham Lincoln Award: Illinois High School Readers’ Choice Award on the nominations committee. All of this committee work involved evaluation, selection, and working as a team member. One of the things that I have learned from my previous selection committee experience is respect for the other members of the committee. It is imperative to listen to everyone’s opinions as often they will see something in a title that had not yet been considered. I have managerial experience as the co-chair of a fifteen person library department and building common ground among competing interests. Lastly, I have been writing reviews for School Library Journal since 2012.

What role do you think books can play in addressing some of the issues that negatively impact their lives?
There is an old saying that “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you have walked a mile in their shoes”. Books allow readers to walk a mile in another person’s shoes, to share experiences with characters who are nothing like them. Many teens have happy families, enough money to be comfortable, friends, and stability, but just as many teens deal with difficulties ranging from gang violence to homelessness to mental and physical illnesses that negatively impact their lives. No matter what their situation, every teen can learn from other people’s experiences. Through reading, teens develop empathy and understanding for those around them. This empathy and understanding can and will lead to solutions to the issues that negatively impact their lives.

What are some ways the award winning titles can meet the need of teens to have a more expanded view of literacy?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines literacy as the ability to read and write, as well as the knowledge related to a specific subject, but for many teens, literacy is defined by what they are required to read for school. Award winning titles by their very definition must have literary excellence, but the chosen titles should also make their readers think, view the world through a new lens, develop their knowledge on a new topic, or shake them out of their status quo. As librarians, we hope to help teens develop a love of all types of books and a love of reading that will grow with them into adulthood. Award winning books help to do that and so much more. When teens read award winning titles, their view of literacy expands to include thought provoking books with literary excellence, that they just happen to enjoy reading. With this expanded view of literacy teens see that literacy is so much more than what they are required to read for school.

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?
In 2014, I was chosen along with two other librarians from my district (Evanston/Skokie School District 65), a children’s librarian from the Evanston Public Library, and the young adult librarian from the Evanston Public Library to participate in ILEADUSA: Illinois Librarians Explore, Apply, and Discover through the Illinois State Library. Working in collaboration we hoped to create a connected learning center, to share our physical collections and better utilize our expertise. As a member of this team I advocated to establish formal collaboration and communication between our two library communities. As a result of this project, the Evanston Public Library has launched teacher checkout for over 300 staff members in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, Evanston Public Library staff has provided professional development to the fifteen librarians in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 librarians have begun incorporating Maker spaces and projects into their curriculum, and most importantly, we continue to offer joint professional development, collaborate on projects and programming, and further investigate shared resources.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this selection committee?
Being on the Printz committee has not only been a long term professional goal, but it has also been a professional dream. I have been building experience over several years to strengthen my candidacy and I know that I am qualified for the position. Young adult literature is my passion – I love to read it, discuss it, analyze it, and encourage others to read it as well. Every year I give my 8th graders a presentation on the Printz Award – we discuss the award, the criteria, and I book talk many of the previous winners. I also conduct a Mock Printz Award with a select group of 8th graders. One of my greatest joys is seeing the enthusiasm and excitement with which the students read the Printz books and the sophisticated level of discourse they provoke. My hope is that by being on the committee, the books that I would help to select would continue to inspire young adults and encourage them to read, not just for pleasure, but also as a means of exploring thought-provoking literature.

Talk about a time when a teen shared with you how a book influenced them.
A few years ago as part of a school wide Teen Read Week event, I asked every student in my school to nominate their favorite book and write a sentence or two about why it was their favorite. As I went around collecting the 8th grade nominations, I quickly scanned one. It was a nomination for Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club. On the nomination slip the student had written that reading this book had given him the nerve to come out as bisexual. I glanced at the student and smiled, acknowledging his courage in writing this down for me to read. As the school year progressed, this student wrote me several letters about how this particular book had influenced him and how reading it and other LGBTQ books that were in our school and the public library’s collection, had given him the strength to come out to his family and friends. He graduated several years ago, but every time I select an LGBTQ book for our collection I think of him and the impact that books can have.

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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