I Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks for a YA National Book Award and Why Libraries Matter by Megan Fink Brevard
I was a member of a national book award committee and we read over 54 books in 52 weeks.
I can imagine the reaction, why?
As a school librarian and a life-long enthusiastic reader, I have loved books since I was a little kid. After working in the publishing field in New York, I found a part-time job as a public librarian assistant.
Working in a library became my driving force to get my Masters degree in Library Science. I moved to North Carolina and graduated from UNC Greensboro. Fast forward through eighteen years of work at an independent school in Charlotte, and I have been reading to vote for the best young adult book in the United States.
As a member of this national book award committee, the 2018 Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the American Library Association (ALA), we read and evaluated the current books published for young adults. Young adults are considered in the publishing world to be 12-18. This Printz book award influences schools & libraries that serve teenagers across the country by highlighting the most inspiring and diverse literature. Eight other librarians and myself have had the audacious responsibility to find the best literary and most excellent book published for teens in 2017.
Considering the merits of a book and debating to find the best one may sound like a nerdy exploration. Yet, this is an example of why libraries matter even more in this divisive time.
Libraries as a Nexus
Libraries are a nexus of ideas, seemingly from every writer who has a book and an opinion, whether through fiction or non-fiction, to express his or her ideas. Public libraries in particular provide anyone in the community with equal access to resources. This is essential for the digital divide also to give everyone access to the technology and Internet resources.
According to the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association part of the ALA), “There are over 40 million adolescents, aged 12–17, living in the United States today, and they use libraries. A 2013 Pew survey found that 72% of 16- to 17-year-olds had used a public library in 2012.” These teens need equitable access to free resources to support their education and future job-training.
Why Libraries Matter?
The Pew Research Center has the latest surveys that show 64% of library visitors go to the library to check out books. That’s Two-thirds of library visitors to borrow print books; around half go to read, study or engage with media (http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/09/09/library-usage-and-engagement/)
This is relevant for all community members as 29% of library-using Americans 16 and older said they had gone to libraries to use computers, the internet, or a public Wi-Fi networks. Libraries serve everyone and they allow the digital divide to bridge towards people who may not have access to these resources. The Pew study also found that across the US, “Library users who take advantage of libraries’ computers and internet connections are more likely to be young, black, female, and lower income. Specifically, compared with the 29% of all library users who use computers at the library: “45% of library users between the ages of 16 and 29 used computers, the internet or the library’s Wi-Fi. 42% of black library users used libraries’ computers and internet connections. 35% of those whose annual household incomes are $30,000 or less used these resources. 33% of women used these things at the library” (http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/09/09/library-usage-and-engagement/ ).
Reading Teaches Empathy
Reading and discovering new ideas are how we evolve and grow and reading helps create empathy. According to Dr. Michelle Borba, “Empathy has become one of the most sought after job skills in the twenty-first century.”
When the librarians announced the winners of the Printz Award on February 12, 2018 at the American Library Association’s Midwinter national conference in Denver, CO, the authors, publishers and librarians are really voicing their emphasis on the importance of libraries for future generations of young adult readers.
Megan Fink Brevard has a Masters in Library and Science and passion for connecting fabulous books with fabulous students. She began her career in children’s book publishing, but fell in love with libraries while working for the New York Public Library. She is an active member of YALSA and has served on national award committees such as: the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature 2018 and the YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults 2012. She has also served on the Teen Read Week and the Best Books for Young Adults committees. Megan has written for VOYA, YALS and BOOKLINKS magazines and she has written TEEN SERVICES 101 (2015) with the American Library Association.