Saturday, July 18, 2009

Readers Choice

Or, you can't choose what you can't read.

More on the Readers Choice List over at the YALSA Blog. It's going to be interesting to see how this all works out, from rules to participation to end results. But then I'm a list girl so I love this type of stuff! There is also some talk of elitism (click the above link to read the full post.)

I still don't see how those books that are smaller, quieter, or not pushed by publishers are going to be able to be read by members, because the members won't have access. We aren't all privileged to work in well funded libraries with plenty of YA books; or multiple branch systems with books that easily flow from one branch to another. Heck, I've been reading of libraries considering cutting ILL or starting to charge for ILL. Personally, I don't work at a library that gets new YA books; my local library isn't particularly well funded, tho it is really cute; so I pay $100 a year to borrow books from my county. And I wonder if, with budget concerns, will this be one of the areas I cut back on. What about other people, other states?

Having worked with the Cybils, with a smaller number of readers, a more finite number of books, and some publisher support, I know it can be a real challenge to ensure that those who don't have money, don't belong to a well funded library system, don't have nearby bookstores with a variety of books, and don't get review copies, have the access to read the eligible books. The first year I spent over a hundred dollars on books and shipping to guarantee that nominated titles were being read by participants.

Look at what World Cat says about a handful of titles that I have blogged about:

Catching Fire at WorldCat 32 Libraries, and it's not published yet

Gringolandia at WorldCat 118 Libraries, May 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth at WorldCat 956 Libraries, April 2009

Flygirl at WorldCat 618 Libraries, January 2009

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover at World Cat 389 Libraries, June 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (which I loved) has also gotten tremendous support. Flygirl did, also; but one is zombies, and one is African American history, and one has over 300 more libraries carrying it than the other. (Of course, I didn't look to see how many copies of each book the libraries have.)

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover came out one month after Gringolandia, but has 3 times the amount of copies as Gringolandia. One is by a NYT best selling author and is part of a best selling series; the other, a small press and historical fiction about the politics of Chile, and a family of political refugees living in America in the 1980s.

If I were totally obsessed (and it may seem like I am...but I'm not), I'd go to my local Barnes&Nobles and check out the shelves to see what they are carrying in their store.

I respect the YALSA members. But how can YALSA members embrace a book like Gringolandia or Flygirl in a Readers Choice award if they don't have access to the book to read? I'm very interested in how YALSA is going to address this issue for this List.

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


Maya Spivak said...

Thank you so much for you thoughtful, informative posts. It is distressing to see the direction the publishing industry, booksellers, and now libraries seem to be heading in. Every mom I know wants her children to read (in addition to being entertained) to expand the scope of their knowledge base and learn about perspectives and experiences other than the slim slice depicted on television and mass media.

These lists are important and make a difference for quieter books. They help generate sales and industry buzz, and provide much needed exposure -- exposure that most publishers are no longer offering for mid-listers.

I am very, very sad about this.

Thank you, again, for sharing your thoughts and impressions.

lisav said...

Elizabeth B.!!!!
I was at the YALSA Board meeting and was permitted to speak on the sunsetting of the BBYA list. I wish I had your post with me. You said exactly what I was trying to say but far more articulately. Lisa V

Angie Manfredi said...

Well, you know where I stand after our discussion post committee meeting. I am getting ready to venture into the comments at the YALSA post, but let me say, I find the use of "elitism" here quite interesting.

Thanks for this, and for doing the numbers crunching about it.

Liz B said...

Angie, I hope you do comment!! And if I really had the time, I'd have done the analysis for all the BBYA & other list nominations, b/c I think that would also have been interesting, esp to compare the stats now and then, say, six months after BBYA.

(Oh god. I am going to do that...I'm that type of obsessive.)

lisav said...

I just remembered in my ALA fatigue that I had posted to the YALSA Board WIKI. It was not easy to find and has only 5 comments on it even though there seemed to be a groundswell of opinion at the conference.\


lisav said...

it was cut off. try this

lisav said...

Okay why do you think that isn't working?

Liz B said...

I think it's working fine -- here is the link again:

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Elaine Marie Alphin said...

Excellent point, Liz. As far as I can see the Reader's Choice list and the BBYA list would actually serve two completely different purposes. It would be great to involve many YA librarians from across the country in a virtual discussion of admirable books that are popular at their library, and this discussion could lead to a very interesting Reader's Choice list. But many of these librarians would never see ARCs from smaller publishers and would not be able to read and become enthusiastic about titles like Gringolandia or Flygirl, so those books would languish under the radar. If the BBYA list were retained in addition to the Reader's Choice list, then Committe members would have a chance to consider titles like these, and expose them to librarians who aren't able to travel to the annual convention - a big expense for many small libraries. Why must it be an either-or choice? Wouldn't both serve YALSA members - and readers and authors - best?

Liz B said...

Elaine, it's my understanding that BBYA will not be phased out. What is being looked at is either revising the scope of books covered or the method of nomination/discussion, both with an eye to narrow down total titles read so that the workload isn't overwhelming.

Kimberly @ lectitans said...


Thanks for posting this well-made point. I think you articulate a concern that has been overlooked - access doesn't seem to have come up much in the conversations, and is an important consideration. In my area, we're fortunate enough to have both excellent public libraries and several university libraries, but I suspect if I drove an hour west or east from here, things would be very different.

Children's books fan said...

Very good point about the books Gringolandia and Flygirl. I hope that the issue is given some attention by the YALSA so that a fair and well-balanced decision is made .... in the interest of children's books and those hidden gems of books that aren't yet household names, you definitely want to check out "Danny the Dragon Meets Jimmy" - - worth a read.

Kids Furniture said...
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Maggie Stiefvater said...

I love the numbers of this post -- it's hard to argue with them. I agree with you 100%. My debut, LAMENT, came out last October from Flux, a smaller imprint -- right now it has 116 reviews and 501 people marking it to-read on Goodreads. SHIVER, my second book, is a lead title at Scholastic, and has 64 reviews and 823 people marking it to-read on Goodreads, and it's only coming out on August 1st. Lest we think it's a debut/ non-debut thing, my next book from Flux, BALLAD, is coming out in October and has 6 reviews and 226 people marking it to-read.

The number of people who know about SHIVER versus LAMENT or BALLAD is absolutely stunning. All other things being equal -- i.e., the writer -- in a popular choice list, SHIVER would have a far better chance of getting on BBYA. And that's just doing those who rely on BBYA a massive disservice.

Thanks for this great post -- the Worldcat numbers really do speak volumes.

Liz B said...


What surprised me most was Flygirl. They promoted it; reviewers such sa myself got copies. It was also on the cover of Booklist; it was on a Top 10 List from Booklist already. SLJ, Voya, PW reviewed it; KIRKUS even liked it! At this point, it really should have higher numbers.

I'm looking forward to reading Shiver!


Maggie Stiefvater said...

Thanks, Liz!

I'm with you there on Flygirl. I sort of feel like libraries should not look the same as the chain bookstores -- you should be able to walk into a library and see fantastic titles highlighted other than those getting chain endcaps. And because Flygirl isn't getting a ton of chain love, it's not getting library love. I mean, this may not be true -- I'm totally working on conjecture here -- but in the libraries I've been in recently, it certainly feels true.

Librarians: listen to other librarians!!

Plus, it doesn't help that Flygirl is not the current trifecta of doom: paranoramal + kissing + contemporary.

Carrie Ryan said...

I'm way way late to this discussion but as I was looking at the numbers (and feeling slightly overwhelmed by them), I tried to figure out why it would be that FHT was in a lot of libraries and wondered if it being Junior Library Guild might be making a difference there? I know it's not really relevant to the point you're making (which is an excellent point) about access to the books for judging. But it does make me wonder how something like JLG impacts those type of numbers.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann said...

Like independent bookstores, independent publishers such as Flux and Curbstone exist to publish the kinds of books that mainstream editors and agents would consider unmarketable--until proven otherwise. Who would have thought that Gringolandia, a somewhat challenging novel set years ago in a small, faraway country and written by an unknown author would have gotten this far? But it was a finalist at JLG and received great reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist, ALAN Review, VOYA, and many other places.

I appreciate everyone who took a risk on Gringolandia, from the indie publisher that bought it even though my previous novel with them flopped spectacularly to Liz B, who was the very first to review Gringolandia. And I'm concerned that any judging based on access and popularity will further disadvantage independent publishers and prevent unusual or special interest titles from getting any traction whatsoever. The resultant loss of diverse perspectives would be devastating.