BBYA Changes Update

Cindy and Lynn: At the ALA Midwinter Meetings in Boston the YALSA Board voted unanimously to adopt the changes to the Best Books for Young Adults Committee that eliminate adult books, graphic novels, and nonfiction from the BBYA committee. YALSA has posted an FAQ page to help answer some of the questions that we and others raised as we learned of the proposal on the table. The recent increased efforts from the YALSA Board to communicate with the committees at stake and the membership at large and to encourage feedback are appreciated. We are sending some of our questions and concerns to the Board as requested and encourage others to do the same. We are thankful for our readers who are interested enough in teen reading to have taken the time to post comments both pro and con on Bookends and elsewhere. Healthy dialogue is important in the change process.

Here are some of our questions:

Many important changes will have to be made to the charge and procedures of the Alex, Great Graphic Novels, the NF award and to BBYA itself. Can a draft of those changes be made available to the YALSA membership and a forum provided for suggestions and comments? Members who have experience on award and selection committees especially may be able to provide helpful insight into the impact of potential changes to committee operations.

In order for the existing committees to begin their work in a timely fashion, operational changes will have to be made quickly. Questions are sure to arise that haven’t been anticipated as the revised committees begin this year’s work. How will these be dealt with? Has the Board considered establishing a small committee of people experienced in selection/award committee work to receive procedural questions and make recommendations for solutions?

Poetry is another genre that needs clarification in the selection and award list policies and procedures. Verse novels fit nicely with a fiction selection committee; other titles of poetry might be better suited to the nonfiction award. Consider A Wreath for Emmett Till (a Printz Honor biography/elegy), The Surrender Tree (a Newbery Honor slice of Cuban history), or Heart to Heart (a Printz Honor art and poetry collection). Guidelines for the chairs on vetting eligibility of poetry titles need to be developed.

There has been much discussion about the Nonfiction Award nomination list that is to be released after the Award is announced in January. The YALSA FAQ’s state that this will be a “vetted list.” We feel there has been some confusion about the definition of “vetted” and we’d like to clarify our definition and our reasoning. For us, a vetted list is a list of books that have not only been nominated and discussed but have also been specifically chosen for the published list. For example, on BBYA, nominated titles are discussed and voted upon. One member nominates a title but after reading and discussion by the entire committee, some books are found to have errors or problems and do not receive support for inclusion on the list. A vetted NF list might have some nominated books removed before publication due to errors or problems that are found through the committee deliberation process. A vetted list is valuable to users of the lists as they have assurance that books appearing on a list are of high quality. We hope that if this proposal becomes permanent, that the published NF nomination list will meet this definition.

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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 Changes Update"

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

    One of the things I have been confused about is both what “vetted” means in the context of the BBYA reorganization and how it will work for a nominated list becoming a published document. Until we see those new procedures & policies, I will continue to wonder how it works.

  2. I’ll be following closely to see how this affects the Alex Award winners — I have been a faithful lover of that list for the past few years and I would hate to see it change too much.

  3. saxton.elizabeth@gmail.com' Beth says:

    And all of this is for nothing until YALSA figures out a way to ensure people appointed to BBYA are actually capable of serving on BBYA.

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