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The Life of a Committee Member

Me at the 2013 Youth Media Awards Announcement 

I'm about to start another major award committee year. I can't wait to get started and I'm eager to meet my fellow committee members, share and talk books with them! Being on a committee is a lot of work and it's a huge undertaking! Here's what it's like being on a book award committee:

-June-July (about a year and a half before your actual term starts if you are to be elected): Find out that you have been asked to be on the ballot for a committee term in the upcoming ALA elections! Squeal loudly to your husband about this. Do not tell anyone else as this is top secret news. 

-July-Mid-October-wait anxiously for more news. 

-Mid-October-Finally hear more details about the election and learn that it is now on the ALA site so you can announce your news and tell friends you'd love if they voted for you!

-End October-November-Submit ballot information to ALA so you can have a cool bio on the election page. Fret of what to say and ask best library friends for lots of advice and editing help. They're awesome and cheer you on.

-December-March-Another long waiting game.

-End of March-ALA election! Cross fingers and hope people pick you.

-April-More waiting.

-Early May-Election results are in! Friends say congrats on Facebook and you do a happy dance when you get the official phone call. Your library director screams in excitement and immediately tweets your news and your manager gives you a big hug and shares your excitement. Husband is excited but dreading the shifting of the bookshelves yet again and the amount of books coming. Small baby smiles and has no idea how many books will be read to him next year.

-May-July-Hear from committee chair and look up the others who were elected and friend them on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Start making connections with your fellow committee members. If you are appointed, this is about the time you would find out and the entire committee is formed.

-July-December-Read committee manual and start getting books from the suggested reading list to help you prepare. Read books on children's literature and evaluating children's literature. For Caldecott, there are also a lot of books on evaluating art and using art in picture books.

-December-Organize bookshelves and rearrange books and shelves to make room for committee books. Come up with a shelf system for "to read", "read", and "read again" books.

-January-Start making a list of books you want to take a look at. Look through publisher catalogs, look at Goodreads, anticipated book lists on blogs. Read review journals and check out reviews. While books will be sent to the committee for consideration, you can still put things on hold at the library and browse bookstore shelves for more ideas. Attend ALA Midwinter and have first in person meeting with fellow committee members and go over committee work and get to know each other. Squeal a lot in excitement!

-February-June-Read, read, read! More list making, review reading, and seeking out books. Lots of notetaking!

-June-Attend ALA Annual and attend committee meetings. Practice discussing titles that have been read so far, but no official nominations are in yet. This is more of a prep meeting for your big meeting in January and also to catch up with each other since your reading has been done in a vacuum up to this point.

-July-December-Read, read, and read some more! More notetaking, review reading and list making. More reorganizing of shelves and piling of books everywhere. Lots of saying no to hanging out with friends because you have to read. Typically nominations/suggestions are due from committee members in rounds with Caldecott and Newbery, but with Printz nominations/suggestions were open year round. Throughout this time you'll be getting emails from your chair with the nominations/suggestions from other committee members so you can prioritize your reading and know what you need to take an in depth look at for your January meeting. You should have a final list of all titles to be discussed by end of December-early January depending when the Midwinter meeting is. 

-January-Mad rush to the finish line! Read, read, read, and notetaking like crazy! You need to be ready to defend the titles you feel strongly about and point out what makes them award worthy. What are the pros and cons? What works in this book that makes it stand out? What doesn't work in this book? Attend ALA Midwinter and spend three days sequestered in a room with your fellow committee members discussing and discussing and discussing and voting and voting and voting on the titles on the table. Sometimes it might be an easy discussion about a title and sometimes not. Sometimes you have to vote several times to get a winner and sometimes not. But at the end of it all you'll feel exhausted and exhilarated! On the Monday morning of the conference you'll wake up early and call your winners which is incredibly exciting (and honestly might make you cry!) Then you'll sit in the awards announcement and hope that everyone else is excited about your choices as you are. Then sit back and relax and celebrate your hard work!

-February-May-Relax! Take a reading break. Don't read anything in the genre or age group that you were reading in or don't read at all! That's OK! 

-June-Attend ALA Annual and celebrate with your winning authors and publishers and committee members. Attend the awards banquet or reception and cheer for your authors and feel a major sense of accomplishment in all your hard work. Celebrate with family and thank them for their support in your year of epic reading!

 It's a ton of work but also so very worth it! It's also made me a better librarian when it comes to evaluating materials for children and teens and reviewing books. 

Have you served on a committee? Anything else to add? What was your year like?


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