I am willing to believe that the process was broken, and indeed that the board is to be commended for being willing to take bold steps to fix it. However the system you have created ignores one crucial function of the old BBYA, destroys another, and misses an obvious solution. .
1) the value of a Best list — to the committee members, the audience at ALA, and those who received it — was the very fact that it included a mix of genres. A librarian who knew little and cared less about, say, graphic novels when I published Pedro and Me, was exposed to it because it was discussed, shared, and then included on a general list of Best Books. For years fantasy was a secret pleasure of boy readers, disdained by many reviewers and librarians. BBYA was the one place where fantasy was discussed alongside the latest YA novel — before Harry Potter changed the landscape. Your system creates a series of niche interests, silos, and no opportunity for cross fertilization — no committee with cross interests, no public discussion of genres together, no list that considers whatever is Best — no matter what the genre. Yes you have an overall list culled from top tens, but since those books were never discussed together, it is easy for a librarian to cherry pick — instead of going through the alphabet and finding the unexpected, she will select the areas she already knows she wants.
One immediate problem this creates is for Printz judges. As you know BBYA often serived as a kind of training for future Printz judges. Since all books are eligible for the Printz, how will a librarian who has never been exposed to discussion of the merits of say, graphic novels, or NF, be prepared to make informed judgments?
2) On YALSA’s own FAQ, here is how you talk about teen discussion at ALA:
Yes! There will continue to be teen feedback sessions at conferences.
you emphasize this with an exclamation mark — clearly showing that you, and your membership, value face to face open discussion at ALA. But NF has been excluded from what your own board highlights as an important and popular function. You point to recent statistics — fair enough, though a person who served on BBYA in the past checked over her lists and found a much higher % of NF, so these numbers ebb and flow. And, related to that, you are making a demographic mistake. The teen boom is passing. That bulge in teenagers brought with it a great expansion in YALSA. But as the population bulge shifts down, YA librarians will need to work hard to keep their positions. One way to do that is to build alliances with teachers and schools — who need, more than anyting else, help with NF. By marginalizing NF you are depriving your membership of exposure that they will need.
3) Finally — you speak of the contrast between well-funded libraries and a general membership, as well as — in other posts — the utility of virtual attendance. Ever since teen participation in BBYA at ALA began (I was there in Denver on the day it did), I have urged there to be some digital expression so that other teens and adults could watch and even perhaps participate virtually. Rather than eliminate a committee that treats all genres, and includes teenagers speaking about all manner of books, the obvious digital solution is to make those discussions a live feed that any library can watch and perhaps join in on.
Thank you for agreeing to let me post your comments. Once again, I believe you and the board were right to see a need for change, but that in fixing one set of issues you have destroyed something valuable. That is wrong — and any evaluation of the changes must begin with that recognition