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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

RIP BBYA?

I Am Writing This Without Having Seen the Results of the YALSA Board Meeting

So anything I say will be old news. Anyone who knows more, please post. Last week I heard from a former BBYA member that there was a plan afoot to eliminate the list. Then today I saw in Rocco Staino’s ALA report that the YALSA board was seriously considering two proposals — ending BBYA and creating a People’s Choice YA award. I have read the logic for getting rid of BBYA but I truly do not understand it. The case is 1) b/c there are no many sublists by genre no general list is needed 2) it is a lot of work for the committee. I know that number 2 is true, because I have been to so many committee meetings. But is that really a reason not to have an award? This year I had the chance to be on the National Book Award committee for the young reader’s award. I could not do so because a book I’d edited may come up for discussion. But I was told to expect to read some 200 to 250 books over the summer. All of the members of that committee are working writers with tight deadlines. Should the NBA stop that award b/c it is too much work? What about all of the other awards, how many books do folks on Sibert read?

Now about the first objection — sublists. Perhaps those lists are very useful to working librarians — the community YALSA serves. And BBYA has always had trouble defining itself — growing too large at times, too small at others. But that trouble is what is great about it. BBYA is where the many YA communities duke it out — middle grade librarians who just edge into YA with 12 year olds; librarians in elite schools with all AP students; inner city librarians, librarians from rich suburbs, librarians whose readers are all girls and those who have many boys. And that leads to the other purpose of BBYA — open discussions that all could attend — librarians, authors, editors, publishers and, increasingly teenagers themselves. If all those discussions take place in subgroups there is no general place for shared debate.

And this then leads me to the problem with the People’s Choice — it cannot possibly work. A heavily marketed book tied in to a movie, or an internet campaign, or in paperback will always swamp a university press hardcover. Districts with many active voters will always have more sway than districts where kids read but don’t know about the vote. The award will not show the people’s choice, it will show the choice that the flaws in the voting system make possible. And BBYA was always to be that terribly hard to define thing, "best" books — not books that some organized campaign swept to the top, but those that adults using their best judgement as well as contact with kids could agree on as Best. 

Why should we abandon that stanard, that flag flying high, to replace it with niches and inherently skewed voting. It just makes no sense!