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 Nonfiction 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 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 and YALSA Election FAQs here.

Today we have an interview with Dorcas Wong.

Name and current position
Dorcas Wong, Teen Services Librarian. San Francisco Public Library

Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the selection committee with selection, evaluation, and working as part of a team.
I have several years of experience reviewing YA materials and managing teen review programs. I am also happy to represent the large and diverse community of San Francisco.

What role do you think books can play in addressing some of the issues that negatively impact the lives of teens?
I believe connecting and empathizing with other people’s lives and experiences through story is a way to transform minds and lives.

What are some ways award-winning titles can provide teens with a more expanded view of literacy?
Sometimes it’s the curiosity about what people label as “The Best” that lures a reader in and introduces them to a story that they might not have picked up on their own. Our carefully chosen lists may also include titles that some people would dismiss or overlook when defining literacy, or “being a good reader.” Graphic novels and nonfiction often fall into this category.

Describe a time when you’ve advocated for books to be more influential in connected-learning spaces.
I work with the graphic novels and comics teen collection for the San Francisco Public Library. I don’t have to fight with administration or managers about why it is important to have a well-developed GN collection. The people I often find myself explaining the collection to are the parents, especially why it’s OK to read comics at any age, symbol and image decryption, as well as building vocabulary deciphered through context. The teens respect a collection that represents their interests and needs and come back regularly to visit the people and the places they know are advocating for them.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this selection committee?
The Nonfiction list may not sound super exciting to some, but I find that many reluctant readers, male readers, and various teens browsing for something “real” (yes, “real” in
quotation marks) may gravitate to this genre. This may be because what is described in the books are more tangible, or applicable to daily life. You read about how to fold a box out of junk mail, then you try making one yourself. You read about the Nazi Hunters and you get more insight into WWII and the heroes in history that they may not have encountered in textbooks.

Talk about a time when someone shared with you how a book written for teens influenced them.
I think one of the best parts about being a teen librarian is getting into excited discussions with teens about what they are reading and how they apply or connect it with something they’ve just experienced. At one point, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld was on a high school class reading list. It was one of those titles that even though it was assigned reading, the teens really enjoyed the story, looked for more in the series, and talked about it outside of the classroom. We had discussions about self-image, body altering, and creepy governments and organizations. It was fun.

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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