When you’re on a “locked door” committee, you don’t get a lot of time to experience an ALA conference. Why? Because from 1:30-5:30 on Saturday and Sunday you’re in your locked room, with your committee, talking about the nominated books. That’s if you’re lucky! Some committees meet all day.
Prior to the conference, we read about 50 books and of those, there were there were a number of nominations. In our locked room were copies of each of those books, ready for us to discuss and pick apart. The person who had nominated a book was responsible for introducing it, then we each had an opportunity to give our positives. Then we went and talked negatives. What does all that mean?
My favorite book, A History of the Q-Tip**, was the first book I nominated and the first book up for discussion. I talked about the layout, how the author skillfully blended the large cast of characters involved with the evolution of the Q-Tip as we know it, how the illustrations highlighted and enhanced the text to give young adults a fuller understanding of the role of Q-Tips in our lives. Another committee member might echo what I’ve said, or mention that the footnotes were extensive as was the bibliography, or that the timeline was very helpful. Etc. When everyone has had the opportunity to talk about what makes this book great, it’s time for the flip side. I pointed out that the size of the book might turn off some readers. Another committee member was concerned about a typo, and another thought there might have been a factual error.
This was done for every book nominated: each was thoughtfully praised and thoughtfully critiqued. Hearing both made us take a second look at each book – hearing praise for a book I didn’t particularly love, Having 5 Cats Makes You A Cat Lady**, gave me an appreciation for the research the author did and how the package (text and layout) really made the book stand out for others. The criticism of my Q-Tip book made me take a step back and ask, was this really “excellent” or was it my personal bias on the subject that made me overlook potential flaws?
When we got home, our Chair sent out a straw poll asking how we felt about the nominated books. Having had some time to think about our discussions, we listed our Top 5 and then gave our opinions about the others. Remember, we’re looking for an Award book, Honor books, and then will be creating an annotated list of those that were slightly short of “excellent”. The most important thing at this point is – we haven’t stopped reading!!
Since then, I’ve received a few more boxes of books and a few more nominations have come in (remember, we’re still looking for field nominations!!). We’ll be reading reading reading for a couple of months (the publication year we follow is November 1, 2011 through October 31, 2012) and thinking about how the new books compare to the ones we’ve read before. Some books we received as Advanced Readers Copies should be published by our deadline and we’ll need to see the final edition before deciding to nominate (or not). Our Administrative Assistant and Chair have requested other titles, so I expect another 15-20(if not more) to come in by the end of October.
And now, back to my reading.
** NOTE: The titles of both books are the product of my own fevered brain and are not real! Do not try to find them on-line or in your local bookstore. But if someone wanted to write The History of the Q-Tip I might just know a reader…