Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Readers' Choice

As I posted last week, YALSA Board had an action item up before it: a Readers' Choice Award. I was not alone in believing there to be a link between that and the BBYA Action item (more on that another day), even tho (as I said in my original post) the two Actions did not refer to each other. The two Action items, in addition to being one right after the other on the Agenda, shared nearly identical Backgrounds; used similar phrases; and the proposed Readers' Choice List also referred to said list as a "Best Books for Teens -- People's Choice" (..."selection of the best books for teens"..."new list will serve as the YALSA resource for identifying the best books for young adults published in the previous 12-month period.")

School Library Journal published an article online about this (linking to this blog and quoting from this blog);* and at the YALSA Blog, Michele Gorman said: "The BBYA proposal does not call for the Readers’ Choice proposal to replace it; the Reader’s Choice proposal does not mention BBYA or any of YALSA’s booklists by name. They are two separate proposals, and they are just that - proposals."

I attended the YALSA Board Meeting on Saturday, when the Readers Choice item was discussed. The Board stated that these two proposals do not have anything to do with each other. What do I think, having sat in on this board meeting and the Monday board meeting? That these are indeed two different proposals; and that it was unfortunate that the second one used the term "best books". So, let's put the linkage of BBYA/Readers Choice aside.

Discussion around the Board basically made the following points (and please note, there could be errors in my reporting, I was unfamiliar with peoples names etc.) YALSA members who cannot go to conference want to participate in creating lists; there was a Wiki discussion on this;* and people want virtual participation. Whether a "people's choice" would exclude small publishers/ quiet titles/ diverse books was raised, but someone else asked where the proof/stats where to support this. It was also noted that some of the questions about HOW this would be done were premature and would be part of any task force (i.e., the Action item included an action for a task force to establish policies and procedures). Also, that an evaluation of how the list worked (or did not) would be part of the task force. Frankly, a lot of details (how this would be done, run, etc.) were not discussed because it would be part of any task force.

Discussion from observers was then allowed. There were only two of us there. I had three comments: first, that "Best Books" not be used in describing/naming this; that "People's Choice" not be used unless it was looked at from an intellectual property angle because of the entertainment industry's People's Choice Awards; and that regarding nominations/voting, how would YALSA members who are authors/editors/publisher employees be treated (i.e., they are usually not on selection committees, would they be allowed to nominate/vote). Sophie Brookover, the other observer, asked questions about the policies and procedures.

The Action Item was passed; the proposed name (subject to change by a task force, I imagine) is Members/Readers Choice.

I'm a bit torn about how useful this list may be. On the one hand, I'm lucky enough to go to conference and I served on the Printz. On the other, before that started I was one of those people wanting involvement in selection lists.

What I wanted and (still want) is not just about voting; but to have in depth discussions about books with other people. It's about discovering new books beyond the popular. Since it's what I want, I get it from other places -- heck, it's the reason I started this blog. Would me from five years ago want this? I don't know. But it will be interesting to see if it does meet a need for YALSA members. It will also be interesting to see if those of us not on selection committees who already found a place to discuss books -- blogs, listservs, GoodReads, Cybils, etc. -- will shift that discussion to whatever YALSA creates or uses for this new list.

Also, clearly different people mean different things when using the same terms. For example, when I think "virtual participation" in a list, I think a list with a concrete number of committee members interacting virtually, not thousands of people. I think, oh, allow virtual participation for BBYA, GGN, etc., not create a new list with a committee of thousands.

At the Board meeting, Melissa Rabey (a good friend, so I knew her when she spoke!) mentioned that this idea would have been good five years ago, and I have to agree that a time before blogs and GoodReads etc., this would have met a need. Now, it feels like it will be competing with other areas for people to read, discuss, and vote. Now, those other places don't have YALSA's name attached. So we'll have to wait and see what happens.

Being the former lawyer, I found the Board Meeting very interesting. Part of me really wants to run for Board; but that would be a pretty significant commitment time wise, in terms of the number of years a term is. Also, from the start of my being active in YALSA, what I have wanted is to be on Best Books for Young Adults.** To pursue being on Board (trying to get elected, etc.) would pretty much mean giving up that goal.

* Personally, I do not like Wikis as a method for discussing things. I prefer listservs and blogs; wikis I view as reference, not as discussion forums. So it was a bit of surprise to me to find out about this; especially as often I do see things that are proposed to the Board (such as the Older Teens Task Force) mentioned outside the Wiki.

** Yeah, I know.

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


Sophie Brookover said...

I came away from the two Board meetings we attended with the same understanding: that the two proposals were not linked (that is, the all-virtual list was not meant as a replacement for BBYA), and I was gratified that Board members acknowledged that it was understandable that so many YALSA members saw them as linked.

I really don't see wikis as a place for discussion, either. (even though they are built with a discussion tab right there). However, I can see their value as a single place for people to compile their opinions, which I can see as a type of reference. And I can see why the YALSA Board would appreciate having all comments aggregated there, rather than following the various twitter feeds, reading the discussion on folks' FB walls, and however many blogs have played host to these conversations over the last week.

Also, I definitely think you should run for Board, b/c you would bring a truly unique perspective (has any Board member in recent memory been a practicing attorney for 10 years prior to entering librarianship?). And the other selection lists -- though maybe not BBYA in its present state -- will still be there after a 3-year stint on Board. Think about it! :-)

Do we know what action(s) on BBYA, if any, came out of the final Board meeting?

Melissa Rabey said...

Also, clearly different people mean different things when using the same terms. For example, when I think "virtual participation" in a list, I think a list with a concrete number of committee members interacting virtually, not thousands of people. I think, oh, allow virtual participation for BBYA, GGN, etc., not create a new list with a committee of thousands.

YES! This! This was the feeling I had that I couldn't put into words during Board meetings. That having virtual participation should be more than just submitting nominations and voting online.

In answer to Sophie's questions above, there were no actions taken regarding BBYA during the final meeting. Board members seemed split over whether to take action, and which action should be taken, vs. more exploration of the problems and proposed solutions for the BBYA issues. But I know that the Board is not going to let this drop; there will definitely be more discussion in the coming months, and I feel that the goal is that any changes made will take affect for the next BBYA group.

Liz B said...

Thanks, Sophie -- I am very seriously considering running for Board, especially since while I would LOVE to be on BBYA, with Tea Cozy I still can talk books all I want even if I do get on Board.

Melissa, can I post that final paragraph of your post as its own post here?

Sophie Brookover said...

Not only does "virtual participation" mean different things to different people, but as we discussed F2F after Saturday's Board meeting, people's motivations for participating can vary widely, too.

As valuable as web-based conversations about books are, there's something differently (I hesitate to say "more") valuable about F2F conversations & debates about books, and I think that YALSA members are, in the short & long term, going to want to have has many opportunities to participate in those discussions via membership in selected list committees.

Also, as you pointed out earlier, being on the Reader's Choice/Formal Name TBD list won't have the same resume-building value as membership on BBYA, QP, PPYA, or GGNT do.

(Re: Board, I will forward your name to John Sexton as a potentially interested nominee. :-) )

susan259 said...

I agree, I find making comments on a wiki to be awkward. I prefer blogs and other forums...