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 Nonfiction Award. Members on this committee serve a twelve month term. The committee consists of a chair, eight members, a Booklist consultant, and an administrative assistant if the Chair requests. The Chair and four members will be appointed by the President-Elect of YALSA. 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.

Today we have an interview with Ellen Spring.

Name and current position:
Ellen Spring, School Librarian in RSU#13 in Maine. My schools are: Cushing Community School, Cushing, Maine; Owls Head Central School, Owls Head, Maine; Rockland District Middle School, Rockland, Maine; St. George School, Tenants Harbor, Maine; Thomaston Grammar School, Thomaston, Maine.

Besides reading YA materials, what best qualifies you for being a member of this YALSA selection committee?
I have been writing book reviews for Library Media Connection magazine for many years, thus gaining knowledge of what is exemplary both in nonfiction and fiction for grades K-12. Working with so many students of various ages as I do in my positions, I can see the total spectrum. In previous positions I have also worked with high school students.

Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the selection committee with selection, evaluation, and working as part of a team.
I have been a member and chair of Notable Children’s Recordings. We evaluated audiobooks and chose the best for a Notables’ list.
Next I was a member of Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults. We worked together with the members and chair to prepare a list of nonfiction and fiction audio resources.
As a member of Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers we worked to develop a list of books that would appeal to students that can but don’t want to read. These were both fiction and nonfiction. We read extensively during the two years I was on the committee.
Next I have been a member for one year and the chair for another of the Odyssey committee where we chose the most outstanding audio of the year along with honor books.
In all of my committees I was a positive member of the groups, kept up with my work load, was well organized, and totally enjoyed being a member and participating in the wonderful discussions at Midwinter and Annual meetings, as well as via email during the year.

What role do you think books can play in addressing some of the issues that negatively impact their lives?
Books are vital in letting students know that they are not alone in whatever situation they may be in. Especially reading biographies of people who have lived with impediments and risen above them would be a positive influence. If they live in a small community and that is all the student has ever known, reading can expand the student’s world view. If a student thinks they might be gay or is living with an abusive parent books can give coping techniques that have worked with others. Both fiction and nonfiction books will be useful.

What are some ways the award winning titles can meet the need of teens to have a more expanded view of literacy?
Often titles aren’t known to librarians until they are chosen for awards. These books are picked because they are outstanding and have value to a broad group. That’s why they were chosen. These choices have been made by librarians who have worked for a full year to make their decisions. These lists are used by librarians throughout the country and have been vetted by a group that is knowledgeable and respected. It would be impossible for any one person to be aware of all these titles and have had time to review them all. By ordering the books that are on the lists that meet the needs of one’s collection it will be filled with quality literature. Many students are able to participate in mock elections where they read fiction and nonfiction and vote to determine what they think may win the awards. This makes it a very exciting time for students and librarians.

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?
I have received grants to improve the book collection and others to purchase books that were suggested by students. In working to improve the book collection I studied what was taught and where the gaps were in our collection. I compiled lists from teachers of what they wished to have purchased for the library, bought the books, and then used them in lessons covering culture in various countries, books that were “bridges” to understanding various populations, and nonfiction titles to fill collection needs. The library did become the center of the school.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this selection committee?
I love being on selection committees, reading widely during the year, and meeting to discuss the choices at Midwinter and Annual meetings.
I have wide experience from being on other selection committees as a member. Being the chair of committees has developed my leadership skills.
I have worked with all students in grades K-12 at various times in my career. Now I work with K-7th grades and will fill the niche of the younger young adults.
Being from a rural state I will bring that perspective to discussions.
I am well-organized and a hard worker. Working in five schools it is necessary.
I will truly appreciate your votes. Thank you.

Talk about a time when a teen shared with you how a book influenced them.
In one of my schools this year is a boy who has reading disabilities and is taken out of class often to receive special services. Recently he saw a book, Skateboarding to the Extreme by Bill Gutman that I had borrowed from one of my libraries for another student. He wanted to borrow it after the other student finished it and wanted to know what other books I could find for him on skateboarding. This is one of his interests and where he is equal to or can excel other students. The book had many illustrations in showing how to interpret the various moves and this was what he wanted.

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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