Replacing BBYA – What Do You Think?

Lynn: The truth is I should have paid attention to the YALSA agenda. It is my responsibility as a member I know. Who would have guessed that the YALSA Executive committee would decide to propose the elimination of the Best Books for Young Adults Committee without posing the question to the membership in the variety of forums available? A friend emailed us the agenda and I was dismayed at the proposal to say the least. I’ll be upfront about this. I am a past BBYA committee member and chair and I have strong feelings about this issue. A Reader’s Choice Award is a good idea but it doesn’t do what the BBYA committee does.

How many books did you read last year? BBYA members read over 300 books a year. They do their best to survey the field: small press as well as big press, new authors as well as well-known authors, multiple genres and formats. They read and discuss, ponder and debate. They build a list of the best books that the rest of us can recommend to our teens, knowing that the process is so intensive.

The YALSA Executive Board is recommending replacing this deliberate process with a virtual Reader’s Choice Award. Frankly – we already know what those books are. It’s called Teens Top Ten and New York Times Bestseller Lists. It’s called Twilight and Harry Potter. How many small press books and quiet gems make those lists? Should we just hand over the lists to the full-court press PR machines and avoid the time and trouble of actually reading and comparing?

Hey – I’m all for virtual – I write a blog after all and maybe it’s time we find a way to give our members a virtual award. Perhaps it is time to make the BBYA charge more manageable . But if we want a list of the best, that means that a group has to actually read most of what is published, discuss and evaluate them. Do you feel qualified? I read a lot of books but this year I’ve only read a fraction of what is on the BBYA nominations list so far. Could you honestly chose the best of this publishing year? I wouldn’t say that I could. I depend on that list to guide me to books under the publicity radar. I depend on that list to help me serve my teens with what they deserve. Is YALSA really ready to abandon a substantive process for something that we should call BBYA Lite?

Cindy: I’m shocked. Truly. BBYA just celebrated 40 years recently with a 3rd edition of Best Books for Young Adults by Holly Koelling. Susan Goodin’s Booklist review calls the book, “Absolutely indispensable for school and public libraries.” I’d say the same about the annual lists created by BBYA each year. Okay, some years are better than others, and for my taste 2009’s Top Ten was an odd collection but debating what makes the cut and what doesn’t is half the fun. Here are some of my concerns about the proposal on the table for vote this coming week at ALA:

  • I like the idea of a Popular Choice list voted on by the membership. Why not? It would be good training ground for serving on BBYA and other committees, but as a replacement for a juried process that includes teen input and group discussion? Not so much.

  • Publishers are generous, way generous, with supplying the BBYA committee with review copies and yet it’s still hard for the 15 committee members to get their hands on everything to read in time to vote. Small presses will lose out to those with larger marketing and the results won’t be the books that are necessarily the BEST of the year but the books that make it into the hands of YALSA members in time to vote on. I don’t like that change.

  • Readership has always been an issue. I’ve heard the war stories about the early years of BBYA with 300+ nominations, many adult books. I had 233 nominations my first year on the committee and thought to myself, “I have to read a book a night? What was I thinking?” I’m still catching up on cleaning closets and reconnecting with my family after my three years of ignoring all else to read like a fiend and yet I think that reading so many books in a year gave me a better opportunity to see what rose to the top. I think there are some ways to improve readership by tweaking the appointment process to screen the candidates and by adding a seconding process to the nomination process to trim the total number of nominations.

  • How will we know that those voting have actually READ the books and read them in their entirety, which the BBYA rules demand? When you are sitting in front of an audience of publishers and editors and librarians having to justify why you do and don’t like a book it’s harder to bluff your way through, and often votes change due to the discussion that takes place at the table.

  • I like my BBYA list varied in genre, but even though I spoke out against changes to that at a previous YALSA board meeting, I could be convinced, begrudingly, to eliminate adult books and maybe graphic novels and nonfiction from BBYA to make it a YA Fiction only list to help with readership issues and avoid duplication with the other YALSA selection and award committees. I still think the charges of BBYA and a literary award like Printz or the new nonfiction award result in very different titles (and that’s okay by me).

  • Lynn and I present the BBYA final list at our state school library conference every year. It is good publicity for YALSA and publishers and it is one of the best attended programs at the conference. The BBYA list is used as a selection list for their collection development, but they like hearing from someone who has read the book. Very few of them have read more than a handful of YA fiction each year and almost no graphic novels or nonfiction. The BBYA list is valuable to them. I expect it is valuable to our YALSA membership, too, despite what the board proposal claims.

  • I learned a lot about articulating my book opinions in sound critical analysis from serving at the BBYA table for three years. I’m glad I was a BBYA member before I served on the Margaret Edwards and Printz Committees. It made me a much stronger member of both of those. This public forum should continue to be a place where YALSA folks assess who they want serving on their premier literary committees by listening to the critical discussion that takes place. BBYA is one of the few book committees open to the public and the only one that invites teens to present. It has name recognition and is a “brand” of sorts for YALSA. Do we really want to lose that?

We’re eager to hear what you think. What does BBYA mean to you? Do you find the lists valuable as they are? What would you change about BBYA if you ruled the YALSA world?

Comments

comments

About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

45 Comments on "Replacing BBYA – What Do You Think?"

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  1. lizzy.burns@gmail.com' Liz B says:

    At NJ’s annual conference, the BBYA presentation is always very popular. And NJ’s statewide teen book awards is very dependent on the BBYA list.

  2. ce.gill@verizon.net' Caroline Gill says:

    We all need and eagerly await the annual BBYA list. Having served on Voya’s Top Shelf Fiction committee for the last two years, reading and discussing well over 200 books each year, while also guiding my middle school students to read and vote, has given me even more respect for those who read, discuss and compile the enormously valuable booklists that I never throw away.

  3. Author Alex Flinn has shed some additional light on the issue from an author standpoint

    And Liz B has posted on her blog

    Thanks for the comments, keep them coming!

  4. Kellyts@mac.com' Kelly T. says:

    I’m so shocked that this would be a consideration. Yes we get a list of top books from the Printz committee, but the longer list BBYA produces every year is so helpful for collection development, reading recommendations, and my own personal reading list. I’d be interested to hear more about the justification for possible elimination. BBYA is one of the only open selection committees I look forward to sitting in on during open time at annual and midwinter. The discussion is always interesting and enlightening.

  5. betsyf@shaw.ca' Betsy Fraser says:

    I’m horrified to hear about this. My time on BBYA taught me so much about evaluating books and I loved (and love) listening to the meetings — I look forward every year to these lists and you are right, they guide my own reading and are used and useful for readers advisory, readers advisory training and collection development.

  6. toddbcpl@gmail.com' Todd Krueger says:

    I’m not sure that eliminating nonfiction from BBYA is such a good idea, not at least until the nonfiction list gets its legs. If BBYA remains but goes all-fiction, it just perpetuates the idea that nonfiction works (and graphic novels) are somehow less valuable, not “Best”, not real reading, etc.

  7. alixwrites@aol.com' Alex Flinn says:

    Great post! We make many of the same points, and that’s because these are HUGE issues. Fightfightfight! I’ll link to you.

  8. Todd, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I like BBYA being the full range of books that YA’s read. The first change I would like to see them make (and I fought it before but wouldn’t now in light of this news) is to eliminate the adult books from the list and make the ALEX award nomination list public with a top ten still announced.

  9. edspicer@mac.com' Ed Spicer says:

    This proposal if implemented will likely have an impact on convention attendance. Why bother budgeting for travel when committee work can be accomplished on line?

    I love virtual but it does not replace the communication of physical bodies together in a room talking and gesturing over the current book. This proposal, from an organization that takes time away from fabulously well prepared YA literature professionals and gives that time to WWF, continues in a direction that does not bode well for either ALA or YALSA.

  10. knesiusroeger@acpl.info' Karen Nesius Roeger says:

    As a co-worker of a former BBYA member, I can attest to the sheer volume of books that get read. As someone who participated in Best of the Best preconference a few years ago, I can say that having that kind of list too work from is an incredibly rich resource. As a Young Adult Specialist with a limited budget I can say that BBYA gives me a wonderful starting point in looking at what is new and worth investing in. I won’t be in Chicago to voice an opinion there, but I say – let BBYA keep doing the excellent job it has proven it can do!

  11. angela.craft@gmail.com' Angela says:

    Being part of BBYA while I was in high school was seriously one of the high points of my school career, if not my life so far! Having the opportunity to meet with like-minded students and discuss books was fun and stimulating and definitely taught all of us important communication skills when it comes to summarizing books or explaining why we liked/disliked something. And of course there were the wonderful opportunities afforded to us to actually go to the ALA convention and share our thoughts with the wider BBYA committee – that was SO FUN and definitely part of what inspired me to pursue a career in books.

    As part of preparation for that career, I continue to rely on the BBYA nomination lists to keep an eye on YA literature. None of the other lists cover the breadth of what’s being published, and that’s what makes BBYA great. Non-fiction certainly shouldn’t be scuttled off onto a separate list for the exact reason why Todd said. Non-fiction books that make it onto the BBYA list aren’t just great non-fiction books, they are among the best books published every year, no matter the genre. That sends an important message about the value of non-fiction books outside of the research paper realm.

  12. kjcmetzger@gmail.com' Kelly Metzger says:

    I am horrified and disappointed at this news! I just filled out the volunteer form, hoping I might be chosen in the future for this committee! I agree that the number of books read is staggering. Perhaps, as Cindy suggests, by limiting the list to only YA, and requiring a second for each nomination the number of books would decrease to a more manageable load. I don’t think that a Reader’s Choice Award would ever fill the hole left by BBYA. The time invested by the committee, their thorough debates, the quality and variety of the books chosen – all of these elements are why librarians feel secure in recommending books from the list. I hope the members present will reject this proposal.

  13. Angela, how great to have comments from a past teen member of a BBYA club and participant at a conference BBYA teen session! Thanks for chiming in. (Full disclosure, Angela was one of Lynn’s and my teens, but she found this story on her own–glad to know she is reading our blog!)–Cindy

  14. brittanykwilson@gmail.com' Brittany Wilson says:

    How can they end something so wonderful and fulfilling as BBYA? As Ange said, it was always about more than just reading books. It was about meeting people that loved reading as much as I did and about seeing books from different point of views. Since high school ended, the one thing I have missed most was BBYA meetings- and Mrs. Dobrez and Mrs. Rutan! BBYA not only teaches communication and personal skills amongst a group of people who are prone to hole themselves up and forget the world, but it also gives everyone, and every book, an equal opportunity. Even with access to the library, I never would have read all of the books I read through BBYA. When forced to make a choice with books, either due to financial constraints or otherwise, I think many people stick to the genre(s) they know and love – but I know when I was in BBYA, I read more fiction, non-fiction, and others that I would never have read. That’s another reason I miss BBYA – in SciFi and Fantasy, I know my authors and I know who I like, but all of the other sections of the bookstore scare the crap out of me!

    I know you’ll keep us posted, but can you also let me know how to make my voice heard? I may be 23, but I still read YA and want BBYA to be there for my kids too some day!

  15. amyalessio@sbcglobal.net' Amy Alessio says:

    Good discussion here on the BBYA issue; the comments are great too. Having done two terms on the Board, I can say that the Board doesn’t make what seems like a radical decision without good reason. I know during my terms the issue of finding and keeping dedicated people on the selection committees came up over and over. I think with new awards with committees to fill and many libraries struggling to find travel $$, the issue is harder than ever. Also there were many sad cases of sudden deaths or serious illnesses where folks had to be shifted from BBYA to awards committees.

    Definitely I think YALSA members should be proactive about reading the agendas, and attending committee and board meetings whenever possible to make your opinions known. If you have suggestions for variations on this, and some good ones were made here, do pass those along to Sarah or Linda before the Board meeting. But I would be surprised if the Board made a sudden or complete change just from this one discussion. Policy changes and proposals can take a while, or be explored over the course of a few conferences before big changes or decisions are made.

  16. I am currently serving as chair of the Florida book award committee, Sunshine State Young Readers Award. We also read close to 300 books a year and spend 3 days discussing and evaluating before coming up with our nomination lists. The thought and experience we bring to this process cannot be replaced with a system based on current readership. Many, many great titles and authors will be overlooked if this change is made.

  17. bookluvr59@yahoo.com' Tammy DiBartolo says:

    I really hope YALSA reconsiders the changes that they are proposing for BBYA. As a Children’s and YA librarian I depend on these lists for selecting material for our collection. Popular choices are not necessarily the best choices. If this happens the list will become like American Idol for books. The real stars may be overlooked in favor of those books that are heavily promoted and much like American Idol most of the votes will come from teen girls. BBYA has always considered book choices for males and females. They also consider what would be good choices teens in minorities. Who will speak for them?

    • Tammy. the proposal is for the YALSA members to vote on this People’s Choice award, not teens. Still, I think your American Idol comparison has merit unless we also provide a two hour televised book discussion throughout the nominating and voting season… 😉

  18. Amy,

    I hope that a lot more conversation and thought will take place but the proposal is for the phase out to to begin taking place immediately with the January 2011 being the last list. I know many suggestions have been made including suggestions for how to improve and encourage quality participation on committees. There was discussion of requiring a second before a nomination became official, and suggestions that adult books be eliminated from the list. I hope that responses to those suggestions will begin included in the discussion.–Lynn

  19. I can’t imagine not having the BBYA list to refer to. As a busy high school librarian I use this list every time I buy new books – I look at the the NF and graphic books on the list just as much as fiction. I appreciate the broad range of books that appear on the list – they are not necessarily the most popular but are usually the most interesting, and even the ones I don’t personally care for are good recommendations for some of our teens. Please don’t take away this necessary resource.

  20. jennifer.schultz@fauquiercounty.gov' Jennifer Schultz says:

    I can’t imagine not having the BBYA list. I depend upon it to fill in collection gaps. We don’t need another “Reader’s Choice” list.

  21. 300 books IS a lot of books. And I feel for the committee. I just hope that as they explore the issue, they think about ways to perhaps make it more manageable rather than doing away with it all together.

    As an author, it’s a dream of mine to have a book on the BBYA list someday. Especially as I read comments here about how many librarians use it to help in selecting material!

  22. alixwrites@aol.com' Alex Flinn says:

    It definitely is a lot of books. Have they considered maybe dividing the list up between several committee members, then having the committee as a whole read only those which get a certain approval rating? That’s what a friend of mine who was on the (adult) Edgar committee said they did. Each committee member read a chunk of them, and then they recommended which ones everyone should read. That would actually take away the problem of some books having 15 readers while others have only 11 or 12, which I know has been a source of some disappointment and controversy in past years.

  23. Reading all these passionate comments is nearly bringing me to tears (or maybe it’s just that I smashed my finger trying to get my ALA suitcase closed) At any rate, it does this former BBYAer’s heart good to see how important the list is to people, and I hope folks will turn out for the ALA annual Board meeting and make their voices heard!

  24. What Alex Flinn said. Upcoming authors depend on BBYA to get noticed. Take that away and you’ll also take away what a diverse, interesting, edgy place the world of YA books has become.

  25. hilarymoonmurphy@gmail.com' Hilary Moon Murphy says:

    Let me add my voice to those who do not want the BBYA list to go away. I am a teen librarian in Minneapolis, and I look forward to the publication of this list every year. It helps me find wonderful, unexpected books that I would have otherwise overlooked. Please do not take this resource away.

  26. robin@noflyingnotights.com' Robin Brenner says:

    I was shocked and rather appalled when I saw this news tonight. Having now participated in a number of selection lists, I cannot imagine that anything positive would come of eliminating BBYA, especially replacing it with a popularity vote, and can only see a negative effect. Like many others have commented, I use BBYA as soon as it comes out to reconsider all of my purchases and make sure I go through, book by book, to see what I may have missed. In terms of lessening the load, I do think the idea of seconding nominations is a logical step, and far less drastic than eliminating the list all together. As someone who’s worked on Great Graphic Novels, too, I would not want to see graphic novels disappear from BBYA — for one thing, different titles get recognized on both lists, and far more important, it does give the impression that somehow graphic novels are not “as good” as “real books”, something I vehemently argue against. Finally, even if we tried to limit to YA — what on earth does that mean? YA is marketing from publishers, more and more, and I’m not sure I want that to be the deciding factor on what makes a YALSA selection list. I cannot be at ALA this time, but I’m with you all in spirit!

  27. Robin, I’m glad to hear from someone who has served on the GGN list echo my desire to keep the BBYA list inclusive of all formats and genres. The claim in the board proposal that there is too much overlap on the lists seems unfounded to me. If I weren’t sitting here with laundry still spinning and my suitcase still empty I’d be tempted to do some data analysis of the YALSA list crossover titles from last year. It would be awesome if someone who isn’t able to attend ALA this week could fire up an Excel spreadsheet and let us know!–Cindy

  28. robin@noflyingnotights.com' Robin Brenner says:

    I could certainly do that — we usually do on GGNFT just to see how our list compares to others, out of curiousity. Shall I post it here, or email you directly? 🙂

  29. If you can fit it in the comment box, go for it, or post it somewhere and give a link. It would be great if everyone could see it. I’m curious. Of course the Printz overlap is 100% as the board passed a resolution at the end of my term as BBYA chair to mandate the inclusion of Printz on the BBYA list like ALSC does with its awards on the Notables list. Most of my committee was against that since our charges are different. BBYA includes popularity while Printz does not. Patrick Jones often posts a list of books that make Quick Picks and BBYA saying those are the true cream of the crop.–Cindy

  30. Robin,

    I’ll chime in and suggest you post it here. I think there is interest 😉 I too am delighted to see your post. I’ve been in the camp of inclusiveness for BBYA. It’s a tough job but I really believe we’d do a disservice to teens and the librarians who serve them if we started whittling away too much at what the committee considers. I’d really like to see nonfiction and GN remain. I’m a believer in changing our approach to committee appointments and how we prepare and assist the people we do appoint. I did make these suggestions over a year ago. – Lynn

  31. robin@noflyingnotights.com' Robin Brenner says:

    OK, because this is a bit odd with the comment formatting, I’ll post three comments — one for each year of GGNFT.

    In 2007 (first year of GGNFT)
    Graphic novels that made it on both Great Graphic Novels & Best Books:
    Kampung Boy by Lat; Off Road by Sean Murphy, Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by Jean-Phillippe Stassen, the 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon; and American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang and Lark Pien.
    Graphic novels that made it on Best Books Only: Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred

  32. robin@noflyingnotights.com' Robin Brenner says:

    In 2008:
    Graphic novels that made it on both Great Graphic Novels & Best Books:
    Re-Gifters by Mike Carey; Notes for a War Story by Gipi, Beowulf by Gareth Hinds, The Arrival by Shaun Tan, Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer, and The Wall by Peter Sis
    Graphic novels that made it on Best Books Only: Town Boy by Lat

    In 2009:
    Graphic novels that made it on both Great Graphic Novels & Best Books: Skim by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki
    Graphic novels that made it on Best Books Only: Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi; Into the Volcano by Don Wood, What It Is by Lynda Barry, Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino

  33. robin@noflyingnotights.com' Robin Brenner says:

    As you can see, the overlap trend reversed last year. There was only one crossover in the 2009 list. This just shows, to me, how different the committees can be, and the value in having different stories recognized on different lists. Looking at all three years, I’m guessing it’s more of a question of the GGNFT list finding it’s feet and seeking out comics outside the usual library zone — a lot of the Great Graphic Novels list is trying to find the hidden gems, much like BBYA, but for a different format. Those titles that do make both lists are thus bumped up in terms of regard and impressiveness, usually.

    • Robin, thanks for your speedy and cracker-jack data analysis. Interesting. And you’ve officially helped us reach a new record for numbers of comments on a single blog post! The previous record was 30 for our post asking what is on your shelf of shame? If you didn’t reply, it’s not too late. Type “shelf of shame” into the Bookends search box at the top left of the page and the magic of the ether will take you there so you can admit what important youth title you haven’t read yet.–Cindy

  34. I have to admit that I am really not thrilled by this idea! I think you guys are spot on. As the author of a smaller press book (LAMENT) from last year and a big press, big buzz book this year (SHIVER), I know exactly how buzz and a big publisher push gets you places that even lead-title status at a smaller imprint doesn’t. LAMENT was not even a blip on the radar of even librarians for the first several months of its release; the fact that it was nominated for BBYA was an extremely pleasant surprise. SHIVER, on the other hand . . . in a popular choice scenario, a book with SHIVER’s buzz and opportunities will kick a book like LAMENT’s butt (i’m using both of mine because it’s the same author — same quality of writing, etc — wildly different situations), and that’s just not fair and it’s not a service to those who rely on the list to point out quality YA.

    I understand that the workload is incredible — I spoke to one of the librarians who was reading for BBYA last year, and the fact that she was reading a book a day boggled my mind — but there must be a way to spread the workload out more without going to popular choice. Perhaps a screening process where two groups read half as many books and nominate the best to a group that read those selections. Otherwise the SHIVERs of the world will dominate the list while the LAMENTs from small but quality imprints like Flux get shunted under the rug.

  35. BBYA might need to be streamlined and to have a new process crafted…but to eliminate it and replace it with a Reader’s Choice list? I think that would be an unwise move. I have been impressed with the comments I have been reading here and on some other blogs–very thoughtful and on target–and I concur that school and public librarians use the BBYA list extensively for a variety of positive purposes and that we would sorely miss it. Also, the list surely helps to bring to light the best from both the big as well as the small presses. One other audience I would like to highlight as we consider the BBYA issue is teachers! I know many, many secondary school teachers who look forward to the BBYA list each year and use it in their classrooms in a number of ways to encourage their students to read some really high quality YA books for both assignments and pleasure. This is a voice that we will be hearing little if anything from during our discussions because these users of the BBYA lists are mostly not YALSA members. But they serve the very same teens that we do in our libraries, and they probably reach many of those teens with the list who might not even come to the library! I do not think they would use or view a Reader’s Choice list in the same light as the highly regarded and highly respected BBYA.

    One of our IRS teens who did the BBYA teen session last January in Denver was just here getting some books–I explained the situation to her and she asked me to share her opinion, which is that BBYA should stay. Actually, what she said was, “No, no, no! BBYA should stay! Just like it is! Tell them!”. So I am.

  36. I came to this post via a twitter by Maggie Stiefvater and, even though I am not a young adult librarian, I am appalled that ALA would get rid of the Best Books for Young Adults committee and turn to a People’s Choice Award. That’s a great way to lose good books because the big box bookstores aren’t adventurous…so “the people” won’t have access to some of the best books….

    • We’ve made it to Chicago and are moved by all of the support for BBYA. We just read the top news story on SLJ’s website, with more coverage on the topic. You can read it here. We want to remind our readers that this issue is still just a proposal on the YALSA Board agenda for this conference. We hope those concerned will show up at the board meeting or will continue to share their thoughts online or through email to the board.–Cindy and Lynn

  37. angela.craft@gmail.com' Angela says:

    Hm. That SLJ article doesn’t seem to think it’s “just a proposal,” since it leads with “Librarians will soon be saying goodbye to the popular Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA) list.” At the very least it doesn’t make it clear.

    Is there anyone out there who is actually in favor of the proposal? The SLJ article only quotes the YALSA president as in favor – but she must have gotten the idea from somewhere that getting rid of BBYA is “what is best for the association and all of its members.”

    Is there a general e-mail address for the board? I did some poking around and found the list of board members on the ALA website with their individual e-mail addresses, but I’m not sure if that’s the best way of contacting “the board.” Or if I “should” even be contacting them at all, seeing as how I’m not a member or anything.

  38. angela.craft@gmail.com' Angela says:

    I wrote out my full thoughts on why BBYA is awesome over at my blog. I know the list is meant more for professionals, like the dozens of teachers and librarians who have weighed in here and other places around the web about how they use BBYA every year in their classes and libraries, but if you need any more proof about how it affected just one of the teen participants, well now you have a link to a rather long blog post explaining it all!

    • Wow. Thanks, Angela! We’re rushing off to a meeting but will check out your blog later today. If we see any of the board members today, we’ll suggest they check it out too. Teen comments ought to count for a lot.–Cindy and Lynn

  39. I’ve been a YALSA member for 22 years and will be extremely disappointed if BBYA is eliminated. I strongly second Maggie Stiefvater’s post #36, as BBYA is one of the few ALA awards or distinctions that has consistently given a fair shake to small-press-published books. It seems ironic that YALSA would sponsor a small press program at ALA to highlight the works of these publishers (including my own publisher, Curbstone Press) and then slam the door on us in the Executive Board meeting.

    YA publishing has already become too much of a “popularity contest” not only for books but also for authors who are expected to have sparkling personalities, fashionable friends, and large promotional budgets.

  40. I’m also worrying about the intense discussions going on about whether YALSA will disband the Best Books for Young Adults list and create, instead, a popular reader’s choice list selected from online votes instead of face-to-face discussion. I know that lists come and go, and are often reincarnated under new names – one of my books was named an ALA Recommended Book for Reluctant Young Adult readers shortly before that list was abandoned, to be replaced by the newer Quick Picks list.

    Quick Picks is definitely pithier as a title, but both lists were connected by the fact that librarians actually read a collection of books and debated their virtues before compiling the list. The situation is different when a reader’s choice list is decided by popularity instead of quality, and even less rigorous when any member can simply post virtual comments from their computer work station.

    I’m glad to see reviewers and bloggers posting their opinions (nearly all opposing the plan to disband the BBYA list), but I’m dismayed that the YALSA Executive Committee would suggest eliminating the BBYA Committee without asking the membership its opinion. This is a change that would have a powerful impact on the way librarians choose which books they can buy for their collections within their budgetary constraints. Inclusion in the BBYA list can boost exposure for less well-publicized books and can lead to those titles appearing on state lists and reaching a much larger readership.

    I hope librarians and authors are speaking out against this plan, loudly and clearly, to every YALSA board member they encounter in Chicago. Popularity is nice, but having a list where quality counts seems as if it would be a hands-down winner in terms of usefulness. Right now I wish I were in Chicago so I could speak out against this plan, and speak up for the important principles of transparency in committee decisions and quality in list selection.

  41. It was suggested that we read the Board documents before gassing on any further. Having read those documents, as a member and user of the BBYA list for not only collection development but for teaching children’s and YA literature, I beg of you not to close this committee and replace it with the Reader’s Choice proposal.

    The workload for BBYA IS extraordinary but is it true that YALSA has been unable to find members to serve? It is quite an honor and an opportunity.

    The list is one of the few trusted sources annotated recommended titles that school librarians have to assist in collection development. It is my favorite resource for new and backlist titles for my YA summer reading list. For my own professional reading, this is the list is where I get recommendations from that vast field for my own reading.

    My central concern about a reader’s choice replacing BBYA is that the committee members often have access to books from small presses and a diversity of literature. A casual survey of my graduate students, teachers and librarians will show that they find about new books from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. These two are fine sources but are for-profit enterprises. A reader’s choice award will most likely be skewed by the selections of those corporate buyers. The on site discussion perhaps could be tweeked but I value it and whenever possible attend to listen and occasionally chime in. (This is the only ALA literature discussion committee that welcomes audience comments)Perhaps a reworking of the committee charge… but please don’t eliminate this essential resource.

    Given the 24/7 concerns, I would certainly welcome an online discussion of titles, nominations as well as a reader’s choice vote. Perhaps BBYA plus Readers Choice and the Reader’s Choice books can be noted on the list.

    Lisa Von Drasek Bank Street College of Education

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