BBYA – Before we fix it…

Lynn: Almost a week ago we posted about the YALSA Board proposal to eliminate the Best Books for Young Adults list. Many people felt as strongly about the situation as we did. We received many comments on the blog, people posted to listservs and on other blogs, tweeted, and commented on Facebook. In Chicago it was the hot topic of many a gathering. The YALSA Board very graciously changed the proposal to a discussion item and changed the discussion to a time when more people could attend. They allowed an entire hour out of their tightly packed agenda to be given to the discussion and they did their best to make sure that all the people crammed into that tiny room were able to speak. I am very appreciative. In-coming YALSA President Linda Braun posted on her blog “Using feedback from the Board and members, the Executive Committee will work to develop a new strategy for BBYA that will be ready for consideration for Board at Midwinter 2010.”

I listened to a lot of people talk about this issue over the past week. I listened to almost as many solutions as there were people in the meeting room. What stands out for me as an observer (and talker) this past week is one very important point. What is actually wrong with BBYA? I don’t believe there is a clear answer to that question. If we are going to fix something, let’s make sure we understand what is broken.

We heard from the Board that there have been complaints about the BBYA process. We heard that it is no longer of value to the membership – a point greatly challenged by those who have commented so far. There were vague comments from a board member about BBYA not serving young librarians and teens of the new century and other comments about the need to utilize virtual technology. There have been several taskforces in the last few years that examined the selection committees and made suggestions. I served on one myself. I am sure the Board is weary of taskforces but please, let’s try one more. Let’s charge that Taskforce to identify what the problem with BBYA truly is. Is it rooted in problems with committee appointments? Is the reading load really too big? Is a juried reading list just not sexy enough compared to exciting new technology?

What is broken?

Cindy: I went to the board meeting ready to give several possible suggestions for tweaks to the BBYA process so that I wouldn’t just be part of the problem, but would be offering to help find solutions. Before it was my turn to speak, I heard my wise friend Lynn say her piece, which she reiterates above. She’s right. Before we fix anything, we need to understand what exactly is wrong. The proposal stated that BBYA is no longer of value to the membership and yet one board member quoted a recent YALSA survey as saying BBYA had a 95.6% satisfaction rate. I contend that one of the first things we should look at is the selection process for new committee members. This is a demanding committee and I don’t think we do an adequate job of communicating what the appointment means in work load.

I’m grateful that the YALSA Board accommodated this important discussion in their tight agenda and I’m am relieved that BBYA has not been “sunsetted.” I like the time frame of having a recommendation before the board by January so that the 2011 BBYA committee could begin using any adopted changes right away.

I loathe politics, but there was great satisfaction in watching a democratic process at work last week. Thank you to everyone who took the time to post comments on this topic. If you have thoughts on what needs fixing about BBYA, please leave them here.

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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.

3 Comments on "BBYA – Before we fix it…"

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  1. scopenotes@gmail.com' Scope Notes says:

    Thanks for the update. I was surprised (like many others) when it came to light that BBYA was in danger. I’m glad to hear that there was an opportunity for discussion at ALA, and that other thoughts and opinions are being considered.

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

    I was so happy to hear when the proposal about BBYA was moved to be a discussion item. I hadn’t seen a single comment online that came close to agreeing it should be eliminated, and no one could seem to agree what “needed to be fixed”!

    I have no suggestions about what BBYA needs, though I’d be curious to know what sort of “virtual technology” some Board members felt the group needs – right now I’m imagining live-tweeting the teen panel or something, which would be interesting but certainly not a “need”!

  3. Thank you so much for directing so much attention to this issue, and for helping the Board see that perhaps they had heard an unrealistic version of sentiments about the BBYA list, and consider additional input. I strongly agree with the idea that Board members supporting the idea that BBYA is no longer of value to the membership back up this claim with some idea of what is wrong with the list, and what portion of the membership has complained. Certainly it’s important to know what’s wrong before you can fix it.

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