Evaluation of Media

What Exactly is the Bill Morris Seminar and Why Should I Apply for It?

Do you have a fervor for discussing books? Are you looking to develop or refine your book evaluation skills? Has past participation in a mock book award committee piqued your interest in being part of the real thing someday—think Newbery, Caldecott, Geisel? If you responded “yes” to any of these questions, the Bill Morris Seminar might be just what you are looking for! The Morris Seminar is a biennial, all-day seminar that takes place the day before the kick-off of ALSC National Institute. From experience, I can confirm there are many professional and personal benefits offered by Seminar participation. I may have caught your attention, but maybe you are still wondering just how this Seminar works?

A few months before the Seminar, selected participants will receive a list of books, a few articles and additional materials to read and familiarize themselves with for the big day. Participants will form their own opinions, for instance, what they like and dislike about the books- but they should be prepared for those to change! During the Seminar, attendees learn the components of successful book discussion, professional book evaluation tools, and ways to utilize these skills amongst a group of peers. The day also consists of keynote speakers and panel discussions from ALSC member leaders, including past evaluation committee members and chairs. This all culminates with the opportunity to practice, seminar-style, evaluative book discussions with other Seminar participants led by experienced members. Still not sure if it’s for you?

Participants will gain valuable and necessary experience that could help if serving on an award committee, facilitating book discussions, writing personal or professional reviews, leading mock awards or just feeling more confident in their evaluation skills. Not to mention, it’s a great resume booster. During my experience, the sense of imposter syndrome I felt when starting the day had completely diminished by the time I left. The Seminar helped me recognize that anyone who loves children’s literature has a valuable opinion to bring to the table, and that book evaluation is not as hard or scary as it seems.

If you are still considering, I would like to highlight one more takeaway. Not only do participants gain professional skills by participating in the Seminar, they also gain personal connections. I left the Seminar with a robust network of professional contacts, and an amazing friendship. During the Seminar, fate sat me next to Josie, a Children’s Librarian from Kansas City Public Library. The day provided us an opportunity to chat and get to know one another, and we have been close friends ever since; meeting up at conferences and even visiting each other in our respective home states. An unexpected, but deeply appreciated, benefit of this experience. Two months after participating in the Morris Seminar, Josie was placed on the Geisel Committee.

Currently, I am serving on the 2025 Newbery Committee. I am certain that the evaluation skills learned during the Morris Seminar, and have continued to develop since, will give me confidence during book discussions and committee deliberation as we work together to select the 2024 Newbery winner.

Have I convinced you to apply for the next Morris Seminar? Applications are open now! The Morris Seminar will take place on September 19th, 2024 in Denver, Colorado. You can find more information and how to apply here. I highly encourage you to stay through ALSC Institute, happening the two days following Seminar. It is my favorite conference, and an excellent way to connect with other Librarians who love youth services as much as you do! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.

Photo Credit: Arapahoe Libraries

Tanya Prax is a Youth Services Librarian at Arapahoe Libraries in Denver, Colorado. Her
favorite things about her job (if she had to pick) are a family cooking program and booktalking to
kids at schools. Tanya is currently serving on the Program Coordinating Committee as well as
the 2025 Newbery Committee. She can be reached at tanya.prax@yahoo.com.

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