Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Modernizing Selected List Portfolio

More on the YALSA Board. These are my notes, my impressions, and while I've done my best to record it, it's limited to my pov. All errors are mine. It's not perfect; and I know this is very tl;dr

This Action Item, "Modernizing Selected List Portfolio," had one proposal: "Implement a phase-out of the Best Books for Young Adults Committee and list." This was originally scheduled for Saturday; as word spread, via Twitter and blogs and text messages and phone calls, word also spread that the Board would have discussion on this during their Monday meeting. Why the change? Because of scheduling conflicts with BBYA meetings; the Monday meeting would not have that conflict.

First thing to be clear about: at all times, the Board and Executive Committee were very respectful and mindful of membership.

These meetings follow set policies and procedures; its not an option. So, the first thing that had to be done? Make that change in the Agenda. Specifically, with no talk to the substance of the item, it was changed from an Action Item to a Discussion Item, to be discussed on Monday. There was even, I believe, a bit of talk of simply removing it from the Agenda altogether, except that members of the Board said that people were coming on Monday, wanted to speak on Monday, etc. Apparently, though, when something becomes a Discussion Item, there is still a chance for Action to take place on it. Oh, and for when the formal Board minutes etc are posted; this was also referred to as "Item 14" because it was the 14th item on the Agenda.

Flash forward to Monday morning, where instead of just two observers, there were well over 40 by my count, with standing/sitting on the floor room only.

Board Spoke First. Board Members: If I misquoted you, I apologize, email me/comment here and I will correct it. This is going from my notes and my trying to be track who said what, but it was a bit tough. Also, for readers, it is Board protocol to not repeat the points someone else already made. Finally, again, these are my notes. More may have been said that I didn't get to jot down.

Paula Brehm-Heeger said that BBYA has always been an issue at Board meetings because of the workload and the Board wants to take action on those issues.

Michele Gorman said she sees both sides and education is a component.

Beth Yokes said her mind is not made up (and noted she isn't a voting member) but that there is a compelling rationale to phase it out, and we are forward thinking to meet the changing needs of our members.

Melissa Rabey said that workload is an issue, and if that is the rationale let's consider changes to BBYA before sunsetting it.

Jerene Battisti was a member of the 09 BBYA and was very concerned about the statements in the rationale, especially those saying the list is not being used. She countered that, saying that the list has great impact in the wider community and is used. She mentioned this being a forum for thoughtful discussion; and that BBYA is a training ground for other selections lists; and is valuable for its combination of member backgrounds. Finally, that BBYA is an identifier -- people hear it and think YALSA and vice versa.

Kimberly Patton said she realized it was not perfect and used by all but that is true of all the selection lists and we're not talking about getting rid of other lists based on that.

Erin Helmrich spoke and my notes aren't readable, even by me.

Cindy Welch said that she recognizes and values the members here (IE the observers in the room) and those who have spoken up elsewhere and that she had issues with the rationale behind this as it now stands. She also mentioned the impact of BBYA on publishers and on teens.

Dawn Rutherford compared this to the cycle of fandom. BBYA has a fandom, but what does it mean? (OK, this note makes no change -- "Let's excite it for other committees"?") BBYA should continue, but with changes.

Sheila Schofer said that BBYA fills a need for membership and pointed out a past survey where 95.5% of the membership said they use BBYA. Does it need tweaking? Yes. She also noted that under the Strategic Plan, BBYA fits what is outlined in YALSA's Strategic Plan.

Mary Hastler pointed to the integrity of BBYA, noted that the workload issue could be addressed by virtual participation.

Gail Tobin said to think carefully before major changes are made.

Francisca Goldsmith said something about having no solutions.

Linda Braun said we need to think forward, internally and externally, about how we see ourselves and how others see us. and what will new librarians want.

Sarah Cornish Debraski ended, saying the questions of BBYA difficulties have always been before the board, BBYA cannot be hands off with no changes, we must be willing to embrace change.

Michele Gorman said we should move forward with solutions.

OK, this is Liz speaking now! As you can see from above, I think you'll agree with me that even without observers speaking, the Board seemed more inclined to tweak or change BBYA (either by what it covers or how it nominates/discusses book) rather than phase it out. I'd also say that the problem with coming up with solutions is we have to know what the problem is; and the rationales as listed in this Action item are disputed enough (especially who uses BBYA!) that it's hard to do a solution based on that. Also, the rationales fall into two very different camps: first, the usefulness of BBYA to membership (and using "usefulness" in its most broad sense); second, whether the workload of BBYA is so overwhelming as to not be feasible for BBYA to continue.

Back to the Meeting.

There were over 40 people in the meeting, and a limited time frame. The meeting HAD to end at a certain time; it was NOT an option to extend. So the Board began with allowing people to speak for up to 2 minutes and then had to change that to 1 minute. This was NOT PERSONAL. It was not done to limit voices. It was pure practicality.

OK, this is where I had an especially hard time following names; and because I was also preparing what I wanted to say, did not do a good job of regarding all the wonderful and thoughtful things people had to say.

Nick Buron spoke first, as someone who has served on Board and is aware of the complaints of how much time BBYA takes and the frustrations of the Board. He mentioned how last year he made a motion, an Action item, to change certain things to address that and it was not acted on; and why not change things? Why one year later suddenly the need to phase it out when last year an action to tweak was not acted on? And he pointed out that the final Additional Recommendations were similar to what he had suggested last year, and all made sense for a list that was continuing, not for a list being phased out.

Beth Saxton made the point that we are literature experts, and BBYA is part of that. I echoed that later, saying that we are literacy and literature experts; BBYA is part of it; and that new and future library students do see books (and BBYA) as being part of librarianship and part of why they join YALSA.

Rollie Welch (BBYA member and past chair) offered solid solutions having to do with the nomination process of books and how virtual discussions could work; others also pointed to changes in the nomination procedure, including how many books people could nominate, at what point a book had to be read by all, and what point real-meeting time discussion occurs and at what point virtual; and whether to remove adult titles, graphic novels, and/or non-fiction from BBYA's charge. (I'd like to add -- if the existence of the GN and NF lists/awards is a reason to eliminate BBYA, shouldn't those of us who supported those separate lists/awards have been made aware of that possibility?)

Several people spoke to how these lists are used (David Gill from ALAN/NCTE said they are used all the time with English teachers & education); professors said that based on their students, library students are interested in BBYA etc; many mentioned the usefulness of this list to collection development, management, and readers advisory.

In terms of teen impact, Kimberly Paone spoke how life-changing it was for her teens from Elizabeth NJ to speak at the BBYA meetings in Philadelphia a few years back, and that this list has and will change teens lives.

Victoria Stapleton of Little Brown (and a YALSA member!) spoke about how this impacts publishing, especially the quieter books, in terms of recognition, reprints, and paperback copies. I spoke later, referring to Alex Flinn's statements, about how this impacted a book, noting that forget publishers or authors pocketbooks -- without this going into paperback, teens wouldn't have it to read it, it wouldn't be in classroom sets, small budget libraries wouldn't buy it, and it wouldn't be on various state award lists. BBYA helps teens get the books they need and want by keeping them in print.

Walter Mayes spoke to education, not just in terms of how/when people use BBYA, but also in terms of who applies to be on. Don't apply if you don't know what you are getting yourself into, in terms of number of books read, etc. (A couple of other people made this point; yes, its a helluva lot of work, but that shouldn't be a surprise). (I'd add this thought: being I've applied practically every year of my professional YALSA involvement and not gotten on, and read basically a book a day etc., I'd love to know how it is decided from applicants who does get on.)

So many people spoke, with passion, with respect; and I'm sorry I don't have all your names and all the quotes. If others want to add or clarify to this, please do so in the comments or link to your own posts. Simply searching BBYA, even without a hashtag, finds many posts in Twitter.

I'll end with a current member from BBYA who said this was his professional goal and he loves it and doesn't want it to go away; yes, it's a lot of reading but he knew it and he still has time for his wife and four young kids so it's not an impossible task.

Where does this leave us? I don't know. I do know there was a board meeting on Tuesday, when most non Board members were already gone, in airports on planes. I haven't heard what action, if any, the Board took or will take. I assume that we'll find out via Twitter, Blogs, or the listserv when Minutes etc are posted.

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


Morgan said...

I was one of only 3 observers on Saturday. What I found interesting was that they did not require observers to sign in on Saturday whereas they did require sign in on Monday. I don't know if it was an oversight or not.

Also, I'd like to commend everyone for coming out and being respectful.

Liz B said...

Hey Morgan! What I should say is only 2 of us spoke; and I know there were a couple of people that came and went. Sorry I didn't get the chance to say hi. Francisca took our names after Sophie or I spoke, or right before. Not when we came in, like on Monday.

Sophie Brookover said...

Interestingly, the person who had us sign in on Monday was Victoria Stapleton of LBYR. I think this was more a function of her location (near the door) than anything else.

Liz B said...

Victoria just happened to be the last person with the pad at that point. Francisca, I believe, had started it when Nick, myself, and a few others (forget who!) were there at 10:30.

Jennie said...

Liz! If you can't get on BBYA, I stand no chance! And it's totally a goal of mine, as well.

Jill said...

Thanks for sharing this, Liz. As a (former) library school instructor, I use BBYA as measure of canonicality - I try to make sure that a certain percentage of my syllabus readings come from current and past BBYA lists.

I, for one, am in favor of keeping it.

Jill said...

p.s. I should add that this entire "let's eliminate rather than expand, even though it's a deeply unpopular move" is eerily reminiscent of the recent elimination of the words "library studies" from the name of Rutgers SCILS. The main accomplishment of that change, at least so far, has been to alienate management from its major constituencies...convincing the latter that the former are completely out of touch with their needs.

Dawn said...

The Board was unable to agree on an immediate action. The executive committee will be coming up with a new proposal of modifications by their fall Executive meeting in October.

I really do think you should run for Board. I'm guessing you would enjoy it. BBYA isn't going anywhere ;)

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for attending the meetings, taking great notes, and taking the time to post them.

SDL said...

I really appreciate your great note-taking. Since it was at the same time as the ALSC Membership Meeting, I couldn't be there, but I was keenly interested. Thanks!