Thursday, July 09, 2009

Buh-bye, BBYA

Sorry this will be quick & short & not finely edited.

YALSA's Board is meeting at Annual; do I usually read the Board documents, unless they are highlighted somewhere thru a message to YALSA BK or the YALSA Blog? No. So when Jen Hubert began reading them yesterday, as I was packing, and shared the information that YALSA Board was entertaining a proposal to eliminate BBYA, I thought she was kidding.

Right after this proposal (so apparently linked to it) is a proposal to instead have a "Readers Choice" when anyone can vote on a short list and then all members can use that short list to vote on a top 5 per category, and that is the New BBYA: Reader's Choice.

I had heard & supported the idea that BBYA needed tinkering -- say, remove GNs from BBYA because there is now a GN list. Or open BBYA up to allow virtual attendance by committee members for Midwinter. I had no idea it was to: "implement a phase out of the Best Books for Young Adult Committee and list"

Source: (you need to be a YALSA member to access): Modernizing Selected List Portfolio (and cheers to Jen, who found this despite the title not saying BBYA and BBYA being the only list being "modernized")

Instead, we get a Reader's Choice award, which is not about opening up committee slots for virtual members but about organizing a popular vote with anyone voting to create a short list, then YALSA members voting for a top 5. (I'll let the math/statistics among you realize that smaller, quieter books and small publishers won't have a chance in this type of arrangement).

I say "instead of" because Readers Choice List, while not mentioned in Modernizing, follows that proposal immediately on the agenda.

I plan to rearrange my schedule and other commitments to attend these meetings. Please comment here to let YALSA know what you think, or blog about it, or Tweet it.

Oh, reasons for getting rid of BBYA:

-- there is overlap with other lists, like adult, nonfiction and GN. (my reply: then narrow BBYA to fiction).

-- number of books published for YA has increased (query: how many books does ALSC's Notables read?)

--membership wants greater participation in list selection. (my reply: then open up the list selection to virtual members! don't remove a list, therefore limiting members' options, and replace it with a participation that will mean little is "I voted for Readers Choice" going on a resume?).

-- BBYA is not useful. (my reply: It's useful to me!!! For collection development, creating booktalks, booklists, etc.)

-- workload issues amongst Committee members. (my reply: see above, for narrowing the scope).

As for Readers Choice; I'm packing. Could I support this in addition to BBYA? Yes. But instead of? I don't have enough time to discuss it. Just: NO.

Edited to add: Alex Flinn does a great job of both explaining the importance of BBYA & the flaws in using Readers Choice as a substitute.

Cindy Dobrez & Lynn Rutan at Bookends share their opinion.

I WILL HAVE LIMITED ABILITY TO EDIT THIS DURING ANNUAL. So PLEASE if you post something about this, include your link in the comments because I will not be able to edit this post for much longer.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Cindy Dobrez said...

Liz, I should be packing, but I still have to do laundry! Instead of either, I've been helping Lynn post a response to this proposal too. Thanks for your fine summary and opinion. Readers who want more can tune in at Bookends:

Morgan said...

Could you post the time and place of these meetings?

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

Thanks for posting this! I would love to see a virtual attendance added-I can try to make all meetings, but I know I just won't be able to! But if they want more feedback, then it should be more open. And I fear that with a Reader's Choice it'll be only the "popular" books that win. BBYA is useful to me as well!

Tammy Blackwell said...

I too use BBYA for collection development. Often I find wonderful books from smaller publishers that I would have never stumbled upon on my own. While I can see the need for revising what is included on the list I think it would be a tragedy to eliminate it entirely.

Beth Saxton said...

In addition to all of the above BBYA is especially important when "selling" books to teachers.

Christine Borne said...

My first thought when you posted about the demise of BBYA on Facebook this morning was the rotten effect this was going to have on new, upcoming, and aspiring writers (selfishly, me, since I left librarianship). So, yeah. What Alex Flinn said.

Roger Sutton said...

BBYA matters because of all the people--teens, committee members, publishers, onlookers--invested in the process. It is a lot of work for all concerned (I served in the early 80s) but I would maintain that it is that work that gives the list significance. A vote? Easy, gimmicky, and no one will care. I can't believe YALSA would be so stupid as to retire its signature committee--BBYA is why people join the damned division (oops, dating myself, association).

Anonymous said...

I am immensely disturbed at the idea of eliminating BBYA. If they think that the Octavian Nothing books would mak their "Reader Choice" list, they are crazy. BBYA is a bastion against the pandering that publishing houses do to get readers. Only books that appeal to a broad spectrum will make a reader's choice list. Books that are brilliant, but directed to a small audience will fade away.

Unknown said...

Alex Flinn said it well, as did the other commenters here. I agree with what everyone has said, and I just wanted to add that the primary fallacy is in this statement in the 15_rbareaderschoice.pdf document:

"Selection committee members have repeatedly raised concerns about the adequacy and the efficiency of the selection process, including workload issues around the increased number of titles being published in YA literature. Creating a list that opens up participation to a wider audience, results in replacing the burden of reading many titles from a small member group to a large diverse membership base."

I understand the workload concerns; there are so many more books being published today that there's no way a small committee can read them all even if they spend every minute reading. But the statement above implies that opening it up to the larger membership base will allow more titles to be read. In fact, I believe that the opposite is true: less titles overall will be read, because the larger membership base will primarily read those titles that are already getting some attention. All those people will be reading the same books, and will have less chance of discovering great new books than a small, focused committee with a mission.

If changes are needed, surely killing the Best Books for Young Adults list is not the answer? We've already seen the NYPL Books for the Teen Age become "Stuff" for the Teen Age (and de-emphasize books to glorify movies and games). I'd hate to see us lose the Best Books for Young Adults list, too. If this keeps up, we might as well just give up and let teens read only movie tie-ins & celebrity books.

Stella said...

It would be a damn shame if BBYA was eliminated in favor of a Reader's Choice list. Booo! As a school librarian, I rely heavily on best books lists in purchasing books for my library. I have a limited budget and, although I read plenty of reviews, sometimes I overlook some great titles. I know what's hot and what the kids like, generally. That's easy enough to figure out. What I want to know is what's outstanding? I have some bright, thoughtful students from a broad range of backgrounds and I want great literature that addresses their needs as well as their
imagination. Please don't let them eliminate BBYA!