ALA Midwinter 2016

How the Morris Seminar Changed My View on Awards

My view of the YMAs this year! [Photo courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]
My view of the YMAs this year! [Photo courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]
It began immediately after the Youth Media Awards were announced on Monday. Quiet whispers to friends and colleagues: “I was surprised by this committee’s choice” and “Why wasn’t this title selected?” and “How could that title have won?” and “My pick didn’t win and it should have!”

While I’ve often heard this kind of discussion after the announcement, I haven’t always had the words to articulate a response. But this year’s announcements for me were colored by a very new and different experience — on Friday, I had the great privilege of attending ALSC’s 2016 Morris Seminar. Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Every book has faults. It’s about what book rises to the top of the pile.
  • Only discuss the books on the table. You can’t talk about books from previous years.
  • When you read independently, you read in a vacuum. The committee as a whole is stronger together.
  • While at a group discussion, it is possible to change your mind several times in the span of a few minutes.
  • No one is as widely read as the committee and no one has re-read as often as the committee.
  • The committee must come to a consensus. Even committee members may not see their favorite awarded.

So, where does that leave you with your commentary? With your thoughts? With the books that you wanted to win?

Just because your favorite book didn’t win a shiny sticker doesn’t mean its days are over. Maybe that book won a different award — an invisible award — one that only you can award.

I tweeted this last year after the YMAs. [Screenshot courtesy of the author.]
I tweeted this last year after the YMAs. [Screenshot courtesy of the author.]
Instead of worrying about how the committee didn’t honor your choice, you honor it. You champion it. You make sure that it gets in the hands of your patrons or students and your readers. Choose it for storytime. Create a display around it. Suggest it to be the next book club book in your library or your friends group or your town. Put it on a booklist. Nominate it for your state’s reader award if you have one.

Making your difference of thoughts from the committee’s known may make you feel better, but it can take away the committee’s hard work and joy. And it doesn’t help your choice.

Take the time to make a positive contribution. Take the time to award your own choice. Award it your heart and your time and your energy. Make it the winner of your own awards.

So, what books are you going to champion? Who won your heart this year and how are you going to promote it? Let me know in the comments!

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library


  1. Abby Johnson

    We are totally on the same wavelength here!!!!

    Books that win the Award of My Love this year include Symphony for the City of the Dead by MT Anderson (an ENYA finalist!) and Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

    1. Rachee Fagg

      Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti won the Carolyn W. Field Award in PA!

  2. Corrine Benn

    P. Zonka stol the heart of myself and my first graders. We shared it with parents and members of our school. It was precious to see them justifying that it was ok that it didn’t win and that P. Zonka was still a great book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *