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 Jenna Friebel.

Name and current position
Jenna Friebel, Youth Services Librarian. Deerfield Public Library in Illinois

Talk about the experience you’re bringing to the selection committee with selection, evaluation, and working as part of a team.
My most recent and notable experience is serving on the 2016 Geisel Award Committee, which awards the best books for beginning readers. This honed my skills in critical evaluation and taught me how to get the most out of group discussion, especially through active listening. Participation in the 2014 ALSC Bill Morris Book Evaluation Seminar prepped me for this award committee. Additionally, I have taken professional development courses related to evaluation including “Reading with a Critical Eye: Evaluating YA Literature” (YALSA, 2014), “Diversity 102: Moving Beyond and Forward” (Simmons, 2015), and “The Newbery Medal: Past, Present, and Future” (ALSC, 2015). My evaluation skills are put to continual use through serving as editor of the GLBT Review Blog, moderating the Mock Printz group on Goodreads, and writing reviews of YA books for School Library Journal. Lastly, I have proved myself a great team member through prior successful committee appointments and have served in a leadership position as chair of the YALSA Conference Scholarship Jury and the GLBTRT Review Committee.

What role do you think books can play in addressing some of the issues that negatively impact the lives of teens?
I believe teens can have transformative experiences through books. Books can help teens contextualize the issues they deal with, as well as expose them to issues others are facing. This leads to understanding and empathy. Many teen books that deal with real life issues (even if the book is not placed in a realistic world) give teens the inspiration and tools to make the world better.

What are some ways award-winning titles can provide teens with a more expanded view of literacy?
Typically, the award winning titles represent a diverse slate of writing styles, characterization, genres, and themes. What all the books have in common is that they are exemplary. Exposing teens to these notable titles will likely push the boundaries of what they typically read and will get them to consider why these books were awarded by taking a deeper look at various elements of the story.

Describe a time when you’ve advocated for books to be more influential in connected-learning spaces.
When I first started at my current job, our youth department did not have a graphic novel collection (there were just a few titles mixed in with Juvenile Fiction). It was constantly asked for by our young patrons, so as a comics advocate, I took it upon myself to create a new collection in its own space. It quickly became one of our most successful and popular collections and has led to me implementing comics-based programing including Free Comic Book Day, learning to create your own comics, and Comics Club (a quarterly book club that includes discussion and activities related to a selected title).

Why should YALSA members choose you to be a member of this selection committee?
YALSA members should elect me as a member of the Printz Award Committee because they can be guaranteed I will go above and beyond to assist in awarding and acknowledging the most notable YA books of the year. Because of all the work I’ve done on book evaluation and my various experiences on committees, I am confident in my ability to read books with a critical eye without bias and to work well with other committee members by actively participating and listening during discussions. Book awards are a passion of mine, and I strongly admire the Printz Award. It would truly be a privilege to volunteer my time and knowledge serving on this committee.

Talk about a time when someone shared with you how a book written for teens influenced them.
As a youth librarian, I frequently witness kids transitioning from the juvenile collection to the teen collection. I co-presented on this topic at the 2014 YALSA YA Lit Symposium in a session titled, “Bridge to Tweenabithia: Reader’s advisory for the gap between juvenile and young adult.” I love helping to guide and assist these in-between patrons during this sometimes overwhelming and scary time. I recently had a young middle schooler who is a great reader and wanted more challenge than what she was finding in many juvenile books, but she was very intimidated by the teen collection for fear the content would be too advanced for her. We had a nice chat about what books she liked, and then I found recommendations for her from both collections. I eased her fear by telling her it was more than okay to stop reading a book if it made her uncomfortable. Since then, she has returned several times asking for more books similar to those few she read from the teen section and has even started browsing the collection on her own with confidence. This was a huge step for her as it wasn’t just about the books, but a facet of her moving on from childhood and into the teen years, becoming more reliant on herself than her parents. I’m proud to have made the process a little smoother for her.

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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