Working on a Committee

Ever wonder what happens on YALSA selection committees? These committees consist of anywhere from nine to sixteen YALSA volunteers who read and select the best titles that fit their respective lists’ criteria. Discussions happen at the ALA Annual Conference and the ALA Midwinter Meeting (or virtually in the case of Popular Paperbacks!) and the lists are finalized at Midwinter. If you are interested in serving on a selection committee, fill out the YALSA Committee Volunteer Form by Oct. 1. Other ALA divisions and round tables also have selection committees, including ALSC’s lists, the Amelia Bloomer Book List, and the Rainbow Project.

Here we have tried to summarize our experiences of the past year.

Andrea says:

This year marked my second year on Great Graphic Novels for Teens. What’s it like serving on a committee you ask? My best answer would be its like being on a roller coaster. It’s a lot of fun, but there are still times where you’re screaming your head off/stressed out/just plain tired! For most of the year you’ll spend your time reading….reading…oh and reading some more! I easily read 160 to 200 graphic novels in the past year alone. And I won’t lie sometimes you’ll look like this when the book ends

And no, I did not have mountains of books sent to me. Most of what I read was obtained through my library system or Netgalley/Edelweiss. I would say we do generally get 75% of our official nominations sent to us by the publishers in some shape or form.

Most of the discussion with fellow committee members is done at Annual or Midwinter. While we talked about quite a few titles at Annual, I feel like it’s Midwinter where you go in all guns blazing. Our list started at 108 titles, which we got down to 79 titles. I’m not going to lie the discussions can get quite intense. There are times when you total want to do this when you’re disagreeing/the vote is tied

But there are just as many as these moments as well

The great thing about these discussions is that even though they can get heated, it’s nothing personal! You can go head-to-head against someone on one book and then be their greatest ally on the next. It’s also so interesting to see how each member views the graphic novels differently. There are things that others pointed out in discussion that I never noticed that totally made me rethink my vote.

After the final list is done, we move onto top 10. I have to say both this year and the year before this was a relatively easy process. There was some that we had to vote again on, but nothing too intense. (I have heard that this has not always been the case.) The last thing we did was create the annotations. Generally, what we had wasn’t too bad, but some needed some tweaks here or there and that’s it. Is working on a committee a lot of work? Oh yeah, but I totally recommend it. The friendships and RA knowledge alone has made it worth every penny.

Faythe says:

In February 2014 I started work on the Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers selection committee. I was nervous and excited. For the first couple of months I read what I could get my hands on. I was excited and wanted to nominate titles, but I was always second guessing myself. Once I started reading other nominated titles, I got over that really quick. I wanted to get some realistic fiction in there to balance out some of the fantastical books. It was harder than I thought, but I found some good titles which led to lots of discussion.

I’m a slightly outgoing introvert, so I was little nervous about our first face-to-face meeting in June. We had some very interesting conversations about the books. Some were a little heated,

but when I left I had a better grasp of my fellow committee members and how they look at books. We read all through Thanksgiving and were done with the nominations. We then spent the next two months reading and rereading all 150 titles that made the nomination list. And tried to get teen feedback on the most of the titles.

Meeting at Midwinter was one of the most tiring but exhilarating times I’ve had at a conference. We all were in the same room for two and a half days talking books, talking about teens in regards to the books, and just cracking jokes and laughing. Those last two and a half days is where we did the hardest work. We had to think outside ourselves and think of the audience we wanted to reach. We talked about why we nominated a book, why we thought it had appeal, how much we hated one book but loved another, the covers (which was a deciding factor in more than one book), and others we let go of completely. We then had to basically cut our list in half and I was nervous it was going to take a long time. Miraculously, we cut our list down to 67 titles after just one vote. Then we had to pick the top ten which was a little more complicated, but we came up with a list we were all excited about. The most difficult part of this entire process was writing the annotation for all 67 books on our list. Trying to sell a book to librarians was difficult and then we started laughing. A lot. We were all very punchy towards the end, but we finished our list faster than anticipated.

I still feel like I am recovering from my Quick Picks year, but I really enjoyed it. It was very rewarding and I got to talk about the books a lot with teens in my library. They loved giving their feedback and knowing it would be taken seriously. Reading those 150 books hasn’t deterred me from reading at all. Sure, it was exhausting, but I highly recommend working on a selection list committee.

Whitney says:

Over the last year, I served as the administrative assistant for the Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers committee. Being the admin is a little different, as I did not get to participate in the book discussions or vote on the nominated titles. Instead, I helped organize the nomination process throughout the year and kept the meetings running on schedule.

Every time a nomination came in either from a committee member or the public, I verified the information to make sure the book was eligible (every list has different eligibility criteria) and that everything like author names, ISBNs, etc. were correct before the nominations went out to the committee. Then I emailed the publishers to let them know that their books were on the nomination list.

There was a lot of this:

I also kept track of all of the books we received from publishers, so that we knew what else we needed to request. A lot is eligible for Quick Picks, including fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels, so we got a lot of books. Over 700 at least, most unsolicited.

At Annual and Midwinter, I ran the timer to make sure we kept to our scheduled time. We only had four minutes to discuss each title, and some discussions could have gone on much longer! It was definitely entertaining to listen to the discussions, but it was hard to keep myself from chiming in on the titles I had read.

After the voting and annotation writing, I worked with the chair to make sure all of the paperwork got turned in to YALSA so that the lists could go online that week. I also emailed all of the publishers to give them the good news. It was also a ton of fun to see the author reactions on Twitter after the list went public. If you’re new to selection lists, I recommend serving as an admin. It’s a great way to learn about the process. I’m now transitioning to being a voting member of a selection committee, yay!

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