Friday, January 05, 2007

Award season buzz

A colleague pointed out to me that my posting on KofA is prominently displayed on Megan Whalen Turner's website...happily, appropriately attributed.

There's always been a word-of-mouth award buzz this time of year in the children's literature community. As that buzz happens more and more online, in such an easily copy-and-pasteable world, the buzz can turn into a slither... of worms escaping their can.

Here's parts of my reply to my colleague, in response to whether or not I'd be doing this next year, when I'm chairing the 2008 Newbery committee:

I won't do this myself next year, but I'm hoping a certain colleague of mine will take it over. The confidentiality issue [see p.13 in the manual] is an interesting one, with several levels.

All actual committee discussions, lists, and voting are confidential forever. There are a couple of purposes to this: mainly, so that committee members are free to say whatever they need to in discussion. Secondly, so that the award winning books "stand" as a committee consensus, without a lot of the second-guessing-gossip that you see in other awards (remember Roger's post?).

Individual committee members, though, HAVE to be able to always state their individual opinions about books, exactly so that they CAN discuss books throughout the year and form well-thought justifications. Also, it's just silly to expect someone not to express an opinion for a year.

As an example: I was on the 2004 committee that chose Tale of Despereaux as the winner and An American Plague and Olive's Ocean as honor books. I can tell you what I appreciate about these books, and what the committee as a whole appreciated about them. I can also tell you what other books I personally appreciated that year...but not what the committee thought about other books that year. That year, I continued to review titles in SLJ that carried the tag "Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library"....and some people knew that I was on the Newbery, but I didn't advertise it.

It is wise to consider what the world at large (and especially the blog-savvy children's lit world) will perceive. In 2003, since I wasn't chair of the committee, I figured it was fine to run my Mock Newbery (and committee procedures do encourage this)...and someone posted my listserv announcement of the winners of our discussion on amazon's listmania as something like "Nina Lindsay's Newbery picks." Now, at least they didn't claim that these were real Newbery picks. One year, in fact, someone forged a list of "This year's Newbery winners" on listmania, before the actual announcement, signing in with the chair's name and committee affiliation!

So now consider the posting of my comment on Turner's website. (I very purposefully called these "MockNominations" as one word so they would get repeated as such. I've also very purposefully not mentioned, until now, on this blog that I'm chairing next year's committee, or even included my last name or library affiliation. But that didn't fool anyone.) I wouldn't want this to happen in a year I was on the committee...even though it doesn't breach confidentially explicitly, it could be misinterpreted. I ESPECIALLY don't want this happening when I'm chairing the committee, as the chair's main job is to facilitate open and productive discussion.

All this in part to point out why I'll be sunseting this blog after the announcements of the actual award later this month. Stay tuned!

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