Young People’s Book Awards: Reflection

The young people’s book award I chose to learn about is the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Nonfiction. Established in 1999 to honour a mother with a love of reading, this award selects Canadian non-fiction books in print, geared towards young people under the age of 18, and published within the previous calendar year. This is one of Canada’s most prominent awards with a $10,000 prize. The book I chose to review is the 2018 winner of the award: #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale. While writing my review, I thought about how awards and reviews can help information professionals acquire resources. With more texts to choose from and a limited budget, information professionals can use awards and reviews to gauge user interest in a resource, form ideas on its added value to the collection, and decide which stakeholder and user information needs are being met (Johnson, 2018, p. 111).

I learned that fiction books are more often to receive awards than non-fiction. By having book awards that keep lists of their finalists and nominees, information professionals can have an easier time diversifying the genres of the collection to meet user needs. As libraries become more user-centred rather than collection-centred, libraries are starting to move away from the Dewey Decimal for reader-interest classifications. Genrefication is one form of reader-interest classification. By organising the library by genre, information professionals can “support literacy efforts, [increase] engage[ment]”, make resources easier to find and give exposure to overlooked works (Moeller & Becnel, 2019, pp. 199-120). However, deciding to move to this new form of organization can be difficult when books fit into more than one genre. For example, #NotYourPrincess could be shelved under a section for anthologies, biographies, or young adults. Understanding how children and young adults are using the library and referring to the collection development policy would help with the collection’s organization.

While I know about residential schools and intergenerational trauma, interacting with the different forms in the anthology influenced how I filled the gap in my knowledge about history from an Indigenous or Native American lens. Therefore, it encouraged me to think about how I would apply this to my future career. If I am evaluating the gaps in the collection, I would make sure that I am acquiring resources in a variety of formats to accommodate the user’s learning preferences. Another potential gap I could see in providing services to children and young adults is a lack of Canadian literature. Canada does not have many Canadian-owned publishing companies (Dewar, 2017, para. 10). With foreign companies owning mainstream publishing companies in Canada, Canadian perspectives might not be a priority and in turn, perspectives are being perpetuated that are not reflective of Canadian life. In my professional practice, I would continue to follow Canadian awards and reviewers to make sure I can collect resources with Canadian perspectives to be included in the collections. Also, by supporting these awards, I would be encouraging Canadian authors and illustrators to continue creating.

References

Charleyboy, L. & Leatherdale, M. B. (Eds.). (2017). #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American women. Annick Press.

Coates, T. (2015, July 4). Letter to my son. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/tanehisi-coates-between-the-world-and-me/397619/

Deandreab. (2017, June 14). A letter to my son: The perils of raising a black man in America. Indianapolis Moms. https://indianapolis.momcollective.com/raceandparenting/letter-son-perils-raising-black-man-america/

Dewar, E. (2017, June 8). How Canada sold out its publishing industry. The Walrus. https://thewalrus.ca/no-one-blinked/

Johnson, P. (2018). Fundamentals of collection development and management (4th ed.). Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Moeller, R. A. & Becnel, K. (2019). “Why on Earth would we not genrefy the books?”: A study of reader-interest classification in school libraries. Knowledge Organization, 46(3), 199-208. https://doi.org/10.5771/0943-7444-2019-3-199

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. (n.d.) Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Nonfiction. https://bookcentre.ca/programs/awards/norma-fleck-award-for-canadian-childrens-non-fiction

2 thoughts on “Young People’s Book Awards: Reflection

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  1. Hi Caitlyn,

    I liked your post and share your interest in indigenous knowledge and genre classification.

    My day job is working as a historian (adjunct faculty – looking to move on), and I have taught Indigenous history a bit. If you liked Not your Princess, and are interested in Aboriginal perspectives on feminism, you might also like Talkin’ up to the white woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism by Aileen Moreton-Robinson (Moreton-Robinson, 2000). A twentieth-anniversary edition has just been released. It has become a classic of Aboriginal cultural criticism that I have always found useful.

    I have also been thinking about the classification of books by genre and how it can hide as much as it reveals. I recently read The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (LaValle, 2016). It is a retelling of H.P. Lovecraft’s (deeply racist) Cthulhu mythos from an African-American perspective. It is really good, and I cannot recommend it enough. But where would it be shelved in a library classified by genre if you only had a single copy of it? Would it be shelved under horror, fantasy, African American literature, young adult, American literary fiction? Whichever category the book is shelved in it will hide it from other readers. It would also contain a value judgement; what does it mean to classify African American literature, not as part of American literary fiction but as a sub-category of genre fiction?

    I appreciated how the Moeller and Becnel (2019) article that you cited admitted that classifying by genre, while useful, can be difficult on both a practical and moral basis (Moeller & Becnel, 2019). I was particularly struck by the authors thinking about whether classifying LGBTQI literature by genre in a high school can expose vulnerable students, or classifying literature as “multicultural” can decrease borrowing rates. Classifying by genre is more fraught than I anticipated. Thanks for citing Moeller and Becnel.

    Pete

    Reference List

    LaValle, V. (2016). The Ballad of Black Tom. Tor Books.

    Moeller, R. A., & Becnel, K. E. (2019). “Why On Earth Would We Not Genrefy the Books?”: A Study of Reader-Interest Classification In School Libraries. Knowledge Organization, 46(3), 199-208. https://doi.org/10.5771/0943-7444-2019-3-199

    Moreton-Robinson, A. (2000). Talkin’ up to the white woman : Aboriginal women and feminism. University of Queensland Press.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Caitlyn, thank you for sharing your experience and insight! I thoroughly enjoyed your blog post.

    I found your discussion of genrefication to be really balanced and very much relevant to my own professional experience. In my current position (as a trainee/assistant librarian in a secondary school) the challenge around how to classify books so as to maximise user engagement is perennial, and we are always looking for new ways to approach the issue. My personal experience of the benefits and drawbacks of genrefication very much align with what you talk about in your post: on the one hand, for students who find the vastness of the library collection to be overwhelming, a genrefied collection can be more accessible and increase student confidence in seeking out and making their own book selections. Simultaneously, along with the practical challenge of classifying books which defy easy categorisation (like #NotYourPrincess ), I worry about the risk of students self-limiting their own selections based on preconceptions of what books they do or don’t like and becoming limited by the genre sectioning.

    My library’s current “work in progress” solution to this challenge has been to introduce genrefication-inspired elements to our fiction section, while maintaining a single, alphabetised collection. Some such techniques have included genre-specific spine stickers, and displays which promote a single genre with prominent works grouped together. A similar approach is described in the article One Common Challenge – Two Different Solutions (Moreillon, 2013), which is well worth a read! In this article, one school describes taking a mixed approach to genrefying their collection with similar success (Moreillon, 2013). I found the insight in this article helpful when thinking about how I might move forward with genrefication in my own practice.

    Cited: Moreillon, J. (2013). One common challenge- two different solutions. Knowledge Quest, 42(2), 38-43

    Liked by 1 person

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