Setting Up a Mock Printz Program at Your Library

Every year my library system host a Mock Printz program open to all librarians interested in attending. At the program librarians discuss our pre-selected shortlist titles and ultimately vote for a winner in our version of the Printz.

There are a lot of options for hosting a similar program at your library whether it’s a small branch or part of a larger system. Although my Mock Printz experience is with running the program as a professional development event for fellow librarians, you can easily create a Mock Printz for your library teens (or even other patrons) if you have an interested TAB/TAG group or if you have a teen book club.

Resources for Choosing Your Longlist:

  1. Ask People: My system’s Mock Printz is organized by a YA Book Showcase committee with about twelve members–a group of librarians who read and present on newer titles throughout the year. In terms of a Mock Printz program this was helpful because there was already a built in set of people reading titles published during the year. As the chair of the committee, I asked members around September to start keeping an eye out for books that seemed Printz worthy (based on the official Printz criteria) and to let me know if they wanted to add anything to our Mock Printz Long List. If you have a book club or some avid teen readers, they can also help you narrow down titles.
  2. Track Your Own Reading: In addition to titles recommended by members, I looked for books from my own reading both during my free time and from professional review assignments. It seems silly, but marking down titles on a separate document was a lot easier than trying to remember everything months down the line.
  3. Look for Stars: Since Printz criteria points heavily to books with demonstrated literary merit, it’s also helpful to keep an eye on books with starred reviews from professional review sources. Jen J’s Booksheets is an invaluable resource with an entire spreadsheet outlining titles reviewed and where they have received stars (if any). Jen J is already starting her 2017 spreadsheet (and has many other great resources on her site) so it’s never too early to start planning.
  4. Best of Year Lists: Kirkus, School Library Journal, The New York Times, and numerous other publications put out a list at the end of the year with what they deem the best titles. These are helpful to see which titles are mentioned consistently and if you might have missed anything. The finalists for the National Book Award, Kirkus Prize, and YALSA’s Morris Award and Nonfiction Award are also helpful.
  5. Someday My Printz Will Come: School Library Journal hosts the Someday My Printz Will Come blog where librarians read and review titles that are likely Printz contenders during the Printz season (they usually get started in September and wrap up for the season shortly after the actual Printz announcements). The blog also encourages discussion in the comments and has voting for their own Pyrite Printz winner and honors.

Finalizing Your Shortlist:

For our Mock Printz program we have presenters make their case for a book as a Printz winner and then discuss each title as a group. Because of that, we encourage attendees to read as many titles as possible from the shortlist before the actual Mock Printz event. To encourage participating, we try to announce the shortlist well in advance of the actual program. Our Mock Printz this year was in early January. We finalized and announced our shortlist in early November giving people a solid two months to read the titles.

We pick the shortlist based on books that meet Printz criteria but we also try to include a mix of genres, formats, and themes.

These are the slots we try to fill while choosing shortlist titles:

  • Contemporary Fiction
  • Sci-Fi/Fantasy
  • Non-Fiction
  • Graphic Novel
  • Historical Fiction

Special attention is given to books set in New York City and local authors because of where my library is located. We also try to make sure to have an inclusive and balanced list of authors (and book protagonists) in terms of gender and cultural background as well.

We started with a longlist of 24 titles. After discussing those, the committee members added a few more giving us a total of about 30 titles to choose from. The list was narrowed through a series of majority rules elimination votes. In early rounds people could vote for their top 5 titles. Any book that had 1 or no votes was eliminated. We repeated that a few times until the longlist was halved and some genre areas became obvious.

Once some of the remaining titles could be sorted into categories (non-fiction, contemporary, fantasy) we did more elimination votes from there discussing the merits of various combinations.

After about an hour of voting, we had our shortlist:

  • March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
  • Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
  • Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
  • Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Gareth Hinds
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The shortlist selections were especially well-accomplished this year with two YALSA Nonfiction Award finalists, a Morris Award finalist, the National Book Award winner, and a National Book Award finalist (not to mention all their collected stars).

Organizing Your Mock Printz Program:

There are a few ways to organize a Mock Printz based on who you are targeting and what resources you have available. I’ve heard of libraries that announce the shortlist at the event and have voting based on booktalk presentations about each title. This option is great if your library won’t have enough copies for interested participants to all have access to the books ahead of time.

My system is larger so we have multiple copies of titles. After sending out the shortlist announcement and encouraging people to attend and discuss, we started thinking about the evening of the event.

Committee members who either had already read a title or would be reading one soon are asked to volunteer to present a title (ideally one they enjoyed and think is a strong contender). After all of the titles are distributed, presenters put together a five minute presentation on why the book is a contender; how it stacks up against the official Printz criteria in terms of story, voice, style, setting, accuracy, characters, theme, illustration, and design; as well as anything else that may relate (starred reviews, award nominations or wins, etc.).

During the Mock Printz program, the criteria is explained and shared with attendees before presentations start. We balance each five minute presentation with ten minutes of discussion for each book. At the end of the presentations people are invited to share final thoughts about any of the books either individually or related to other shortlist titles. Then ballots are distributed.

Like the real Printz, we use weighted voting and ask people to mark their first, second and third place choices on the ballots (first place gets 3 points, second place gets 2 points, third place gets 1 point).

Counting votes involves tallying and multiplying votes by whatever relevant factor (if a title gets 5 votes for first place that would be multiplied by 3 for a total of 15 points). After points are counted the book with the highest count is our winner. We then look at the next lowest titles in the vote count to select our two honor books.

And the winner is . . .

At this year’s Mock Printz, attendees chose March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell as our winner. Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard and The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon were our two honor titles. While there was an overwhelming consensus with love for March: Book Three and Girl Mans Up, it was interesting to see how divisive some of the other titles were for attendees.

By now, of course, the real Printz results are also out and I’m pretty excited with our Mock selections compared to the actual committee (we almost never have so much overlap!).

Whether you end up hosting a large scale Mock Printz for the public or a smaller one just for you and your colleagues, following the real Printz award and making your own predictions is a great way to keep up with some of the best YA titles that are published during the year.

If you’re library hosts a Mock Printz program, what were your winners this year? If not, it’s never too early to start planning for next year!

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