t BBYA No More? | sh C. K. Kelly Martin o
BBYA No More?

BBYA No More?

I truly hope this doesn't happen but the American Library Assocation is considering replacing their annual YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list with a Reader's Choice one.

According to their own literature, basically YALSA and Non-YALSA members would be able to nominate titles and the final list would be composed of the top 5 vote getters (only YALSA members will be eligible to vote) in each category (e.g. sci fi, fantasy, historical, romance, humor, mystery, horror, biographies, etc.).

At first glance the idea may appear attractive because it allows many more of YALSA's members to participate in the process. But as middle-school librarians Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan point out in a Booklist article on the subject, a similar popular choice type list to the one the ALA have in mind already exists in the form of a Teens' Top Ten. The main difference with the newly proposed list is that it would be a librarians popular choice. Currently, BBYA committee members read over 300 books a year but we can't reasonably expect this same scope of reading from regular librarians who would be eligible to vote under the new system, which means quieter and less publicized books would be even less likely to be recognized by YALSA than they are right now. As YA author Alex Flynn explains on her blog, "Many libraries don't even order new books until several months after they come out, or they wait for the BBYA list to be released."

Reading about the positive impact that making the BBYA list with Breathing Underwater had on Alex Flynn's career, my heart sank at this: "A book like Breathing Underwater would never have been chosen for BBYA if it had been up to popular vote, particularly if there were only five slots."

And again at this: "And what of titles which may have less popular appeal due to concentrating on members of minority groups?...I can only imagine how a book like Williams' Garcia's, an African-American title which opened with a brutal rape and had a hideous cover, would have fared in a popular vote."

Replacing YALSA's current BBYA list with a Reader's Choice one would be a definite vote in favour of popularity over quality. If that's where YALSA want to go, I suppose they're headed in the right direction with this idea but it all feels very wrong to me. I understand if the current BBYA procedure needs some kind of overhaul but readers are already well aware of the hit books on the market. The Reader's Choice list won't offer anything new — instead it will shine yet another spotlight on top selling books that don't need another champion while lesser known but just as worthy novels go undiscovered. Is that really what you want, YALSA?

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