Here Is What I Know — And I Wish Some YALSA Officer Would Come Here to Discuss and Explain
Luanne Toth at SLJ went to interview the board, so I am sure there will be a piece with some official clarification soon. But this is the word on the street.
Why they felt some change was needed:
Complaints from librarians who found the list too long and therefore not useful.
Complaints from committee members that they had too much to read and therefore could not really do the job
These seem to be the two main strands. A third is supposedly some concern that books were appearing on too many lists (I fail to see the problem. If a book is terrific in many ways, wow, lets celebrate that.)
Weaving in there somewhere is also the fact that there is now a GN list, a NF award, and there is the Alex list/awards for adult books for teenagers.
[This is tangential, but I should have mentioned this in my original post: ALSC is also placing on the ballot the idea of changing its own age range to birth-13, rather than (wherever it now begins) to 14. While there is some logic to that, the net effect of course will be to lower the ages of Newbery, Sibert, Caldecott, Notables. I mention it here because many of us felt that the two divisions were making changes to make changes — that there was some sense of not completely considered rapid activity.]
OK so lets say there are real problems with a list grown too long, and people who decide to run for BBYA and then get a sense of reading vertigo when they realize what they are in for.
Ed Spicer has made the very logical suggestion that you address these problems by requiring more nominees (3, say) before a book is considered by the whole group. In other words, tighten the nomination process, don’t eliminate genres. As many people have pointed out, the heavy work load does not come because of a flood of NF.
The new NF award is great. But an award is not a list — and also, by rule, it does not involve open discussion, or direct and open input from teenagers. The YALSA board has wiggled around this by saying not only the winner and finalists will be announced but some vetted annotated version of the nominees list. To many of us that seemed like a half baked idea dreamed up to mediate between an award and a list. The board does not seem to have commented on, or recognized, the crucial role open discussion plays in the value of BBYA — to all — to librarians who listen, to publishers, to authors, to teenagers. They have — without admitting it — eliminated all open discussion of nonfiction books. At annual, when the Board first began moving in this direction, they wanted BBYA to be selected by a vote of all — an electronic open universe. Well if they believe vox pop is important — why have they silenced all librarians and, especially, teenagers who want to speak about nonfiction?
I invite any and every board member to address this concern here.
The Board has said that they will come back in a year and evaluate the change. However, since they have neither clearly articulated what the change is meant to accomplish, nor set any benchmarks for evaluation, it is impossible to know what they will be looking at next year. Since this time they refused to listen to objections, who are they going to listen to in a year? What could possibly happen in a year that would influence them to undo this mistake? They have not said.
Finally I cannot help thinking that a bias against NF plays a role here – and in that is just wrong. Think about it — some schools are eliminating NF books in favor of databases. We (authors, publishers, librarians) believe that a book is not a database — that great NF (as we saw honored today) offers a reading experience impossible to find in a database. But to remove NF from BBYA is to say that NF is not "best" — in other words to agree that libraries need not spend too much effort on selecting it. I simply cannot understand what logic would impell the YALSA board to send that message.