Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 15 through April 22, and to help you be an informed voter, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2016 YALSA Governance and 2018 Selection Committee candidates.

Today we’ll hear from a candidate for the 2018 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 and YALSA Election FAQs here.

Today we have an interview with Julie Benolken.

Name and current position
Julie Benolken, Instructor/Librarian, Inver Hills Community College

Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the selection committee with selection, evaluation, and working as part of a team.
I’ve been lucky enough to be on a number of committees in the past few years, each with a different charge. Each of these committee experiences was rich and varied and something I’ll treasure forever. Working with all of these fantastic folks from all around the country brings great diversity to the committee process. Together we make our choices, and these choices are better made together than alone.

What role do you think books can play in addressing some of the issues that negatively impact the lives of teens?
Books can be a powerful way to create empathy, to console, and to inspire. They can bring people together and provide a framework to safely discuss hard issues. Teens can read them individually and know that they’re not alone.

What are some ways award-winning titles can provide teens with a more expanded view of literacy?
Awards allow a title to attract readers what maybe would not pickup the book randomly; it makes it more enticing. Awards also give titles some longevity and thus the time to find their way into the hands of teens.

Describe a time when you’ve advocated for books to be more influential in connected-learning spaces.
We recently completely remodeled our library and the librarians were insistent that there continue to be easy access to printed books. In the end, we did maintain a strong print collection and even got more display opportunities. Our strong circulation numbers have validated our advocacy.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this selection committee?
I’m fair, objective, and love the evaluative committee process and I have a lot of experience evaluating books across genres and have learned from my past committee positions how to manage the reading load.

Talk about a time when someone shared with you how a book written for teens influenced them.
I’ve had so many of these conversations and folks typically talk about how they gained new perspectives, or felt like whatever they were going through was easier after reading about the character’s struggles in a book. They ask for sad books. They stand in the stacks clutching books asking for another just as good. They say they never knew a book could be so good and that now they feel like a reader. Books are powerful.

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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