One and Done: Serving on ALSC Committees and Never Coming Back
Eleven years ago I served on the Newbery committee that would award Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky one of the loftiest children’s literary awards in the land. Ten years later I was tapped to serve as the chair of the Arbuthnot Lecture committee. Why the gap in time? In my particular case it had a fair amount to do with the fact that I’ve been publishing books for kids. Not always knowing when one book or another would hit the American marketplace I eschewed committee work. Then in 2014 or so the ALSC Committee Bylaws changed the degree to which a committee member could be active in social media. Were I to be asked to serve on a book award committee today I would undoubtedly have to give up this pretty little blog, to say nothing of Twitter and Facebook.
Yet for many, serving on the Newbery or Caldecott committees represents the fulfillment of lifelong dreams. Recently I joined a book discussion group here in Chicago where the topic turned to a phenomenon I was unaware of. In some cases a librarian will serve on the Newbery or Caldecott committee and then never serve again. Interestingly, committee members needn’t serve on other ALSC committees to be considered for inclusion or nomination. The question then became whether or not this is a problem or not.
Initially, I thought that this wasn’t much of a problem. I like fresh faces and new voices on committees. Many is the time I’ve looked at a committee and seen a lot of names repeating over and over again. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you get the same people on the same committees repeatedly, there is a bit of a danger of not getting new perspectives on the books you’re considering. The best committees, to my mind, are the ones that are a mix of old salts and fresh blood (and if that mixed metaphor struck you as weird, I’m a little surprised I wrote it too).
So my question for you today is this: Is it a problem when people serve on a major ALSC committee once and then disappear from volunteering ever again, or is it fine? Should people spend more time applying for the less well-known (but no less important) ALSC committees? Or is that problematic since it requires a certain financial responsibility on the part of some of the potential committee members?
I’m interested in your thoughts on the matter.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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