Monday, September 22, 2008

Cybils

The Cybils is the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards. It is now entering its third year!

In a nutshell: during the fall, various genre and age committees are formed. Books in various genres are nominated: poetry, science fiction, middle grade, etc. One panel reads all the nominations and selects five books. The second panel then reads those five books and picks one winner. Panelists are made up of people who blog about children's and young adult books. The specific rules are at the Cybils website.

I have been asked, why the Cybils? Why a need for yet more awards when there are so many other ones out there?

And here are my reasons for liking the Cybils, and seeing them as important. They are in no particular order. They represent my opinions, not the official opinions of the Cybils. And yes, I was involved with the Cybils for the first two years. Other commitments made it necessary for me to not be involved this year.

1. Not everyone who is interested in books is a librarian; there is a world outside the ALA awards. Yep, I love the ALA awards, obviously -- I'm on this year's Printz Committee. But ALA and librarians is not the start and end of children's and YA books. Book bloggers in this neck of the woods include many varied types of people, not all librarians, and not all want to join ALA. That said, I would hope that some people who get involved with the Cybils consider joining ALA and getting involved with them. It's like Cybils fun, but year round!

2. It's as much about the process as it is about the award. It pushes participants to think about books beyond "what I liked" and "what I didn't like"; to do more than accept genres at their face value. It's about obtaining and circulating copies of books and making sure each book gets read. I'm a firm believer in that we learn as much from doing something as we do from the end result. Being involved in any aspect of the Cybils is a wonderful educational opportunity for anyone involved.

3. It provides a ton of opportunities for participation. While the Cybils cannot say "yes" to everyone, it can say "yes" to a lot of people. With coordinators, two sets of panels of five to seven individuals, and nine categories, well over 100 people are involved.

4. It pushes readers to read beyond what they 'want' to. We book bloggers are a "me me me" lot. We don't answer to anyone else when we blog, so we blog what we want to. We read what we want to. You don't have that luxury with the Cybils, and that is a great thing! When I am pushed to read outside of my own choices, I can discover some real gems.

5. We don't all think alike. While our blogs are like conversations, they aren't really. And this soon become apparent as the Cybils panelists and judges discuss books, when real conversation happens. And this means discovering the book you love is the book someone else hated, and now having the discussion to see hash out the book, and apply more objective rules than love/hate. Blogging is about talking; the Cybils is about listening.

6. It forces you to be more articulate. As you discuss the books, emotional reactions and whether you personally like or don't like a book just won't cut it. You have to dig deeper and encourage others to dig deeper as well.

What about you? What do you like best about the Cybils?

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