National Book Awards - Behind the Scenes

From the desk of Library Director & CEO Peter Coyl
March 17, 2022
Last month I wrote about book censorship and Intellectual Freedom and the issue persists nationwide. A recent list of titles targeted by the Oklahoma Attorney General included a number of award-winning books. The inclusion of many well-regarded titles among the books being challenged and questioned has folks asking about book awards: Who gives them out?  How are they chosen? What do the awards mean? In general, awards are given by professional organizations. Each award has its own criteria set by the organization giving it. For example, the National Council of Teachers of English has its own awards, as does the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, but most of the awards are given by the American Library Association. These awards are selected by librarians, educators, teachers, and academics.
At Sacramento Public Library, we have the privilege of having a number of staff who have served or are serving on book award committees. This month we are highlighting them and the important work they do. We hope you enjoy learning more about our team and the work that goes on behind the scenes on these prestigious award committees. Please note this is not an exhaustive list and some staff have elected not to be featured.
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book for children (ages 0-14) published in the United States in English during the preceding year. This prestigious national award, and its winners and honor books, are often highlighted on store and library shelves, and recommended in school curricula. Sibert Award committee members read, nominate and award books for the Sibert Award.

Justin Azevedo, Youth Materials’ Selector and 2022-2023 Sibert Award Committee Member
“I think good, authoritative, high-appeal nonfiction is a crucial part of youth literacy, but sometimes gets overlooked outside of the classroom. I’m excited at the opportunity to help select a lineup of strong titles good for all kinds of readers, and am looking forward to taking the new things I learn about evaluating children’s nonfiction after I am done on the committee and applying them to selecting for and highlighting Sacramento Public Library’s collection.”

Addie Estrada-Huerta, Library Supervisor, 2021-2022 Sibert Award Committee Member 
“I was chosen by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) president to be part of the committee as they felt my past work would be an asset to the team. It was my first time on a book committee and I read a ridiculous amount of informational books from board books to memoirs. It was a great experience and I recommend it for anyone looking to improve their readers advisory skills or is a huge fan of debating books.”

Stonewall Book Awards
The Stonewall Book Awards celebrates the best literature of the year depicting LGBTQ+ experience with divisions for adult, nonfiction and youth books. The Stonewall Book Award-Mike Morgan and Larry Roman Children and Young Adult Literature Award focuses on books for youth ages 0-18. This year is particularly exciting as it is the first year that there will be separate awards for children and teen books. In the past, there had not been enough LGBTQ+ literature for children and middle grade readers, but with the diversification in children's publishing in recent years, it is now possible to present awards and honors to more books in the children's and young adult categories. 

Lindsey Helfrich, Librarian and 2022 Stonewall Book Awards Committee Member
“The Stonewall Award recognizes the importance of queer representation in books for youth and authors' contribution to diverse and marginalized identities. It is important for young people to see themselves and the people around them positively represented in literature. This is especially true for LGBTQ+ youth as it may be an element of their identity that they are struggling with or do not see much acceptance for in their local environments. When I was a young person, books and literature helped me better understand and accept myself and my identity, and the books awarded by the Stonewall Committee were some of the most influential in my life. This power of literature is part of what made me interested in youth librarianship—that ability to help young people find the right books to help them through that time in their life."

Odyssey Award
The Odyssey Award is given to the producers of the best audiobook produced for children and young adults. The Odyssey Award committee is responsible for listening and evaluating audiobook submissions throughout the year. This award is significant because it recognizes that audiobooks are a valid literary format. Audiobooks aren’t “cheating!” In fact, neuroscientists have proven that listening to an audiobook is just as beneficial as reading a book. The Odyssey Award acknowledges the power of storytelling while also embracing an exciting contemporary medium. Children and Teens deserve quality audiobooks and this award ensures that they won’t be let down. 

Caitlyn Tormey, Librarian and 2022 Odyssey Award Committee Member
“I participated on this committee because I am passionate about promoting audiobooks! During my time on the committee I listened to about 1200 hours of audiobooks! I knew it would be challenging but it would help my reader’s advisory skills and make me a better librarian. Being a part of this committee was an auditory adventure that introduced me to brilliant narrators and stories. I seriously cannot express how proud I am of our committee’s selections. Please everyone listen to our children’s audiobook winner, Boogie, Boogie Y’all by C.G. Esperanza! Your ears will thank you later!”