Books, Collection Development, Conferences

Inside the locked room, part 1 – #ALAMW12

As reported last April, I’m serving on YALSA’s Excellence in Non-fiction for Young Adults committee. My term started November 1, 2011 and will end in January 2013 when we make those exciting phone calls – and in between there’ll be much discussion and reading. Liz Burns, on the outgoing committee, explains our charge and the process better than I possibly can.

So why this post? Because there’s a lot of mystery about the whole “locked room committee” thing. I’m here to give you a peek behind that door.

First of all, this time we didn’t meet in a locked room. As a matter of fact, the room didn’t lock and had a sliding glass wall out to the hotel’s atrium (where one could watch the Patriots/Ravens game – so glad that ended well! – bowl, eat and drink). If you’re good at lip-reading, this would have been a perfect spying opportunity. There was no bathroom,food or drink provided, but most of us either brought food with us (we started at 1:30) or suffered.

Our first meeting was mostly “housekeeping”: introductions (I’m the only school librarian on the committee), checking our addresses so that publishers can start to send us books, talking about the criteria and how we should structure our conversations (positives first, then negatives). A few titles were mentioned, and our intrepid Chair, Angela, gets to take on the task of contacting the publishers to ask they send the books to us. We also talked about fact-checking, which doesn’t mean that we’re doing the work the editorial staff should have done in real depth, but if the work is (to our knowledge) leaving out important information, that’s something to consider.

Because this is one of the few committees whose nominations are made public (to serve as a collection development tool) we have a lot of responsibility. To be honest, it’s a little scary. Now, that list isn’t our shortlist, it’s just all the books we thought worthy of serious consideration. The shortlist will be drawn from that list, ditto the eventual winner. And a book I love love love and nominate may ultimately be trashed by the rest of the committee. The fact that e-readers show books differently, that pictures may (or may not) be laid out the same in digital format, if they’re even truly visible, means that before nominating we have to check the print version.

Between now and Annual we’ll be reading, discussing and taking notes. Then we’ll meet, again in a possibly locked room, and talk about our favorites at that point.

Stay tuned.

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