Tuesday, January 28, 2014

If I had a million dollars…

…to spend to help the ALA Youth Media Awards, I’d probably spend it like I’m about to describe. You see, I love the awards—the whole slate of them. They’re a fantastic but underutilized resource for anyone who loves books. And I want to see them reach their maximum audience. So here’s how I’d start: I’d endow a fund to finance a permanent YMA Civilian Publicity Strike Force. Here’s how it would work:

The three governing principles:

1. I would begin by stating that my goal is that the whole awards list becomes well known as the premier discovery tool for people who want to buy high quality books. The Whole List—all the Youth Media Awards--will be important even if the Newbery and Caldecott remain supreme. People on the street buying books for children in their lives should see the YMAs as guide that has value to them across a huge spectrum of needs—not just those addressed by the big two.

2. Nothing about how the awards are chosen changes. New awards are added or modified as they would naturally be

3. The one slight exception to 2 is the date of Midwinter. If Midwinter needs to move into the holiday shopping window, the ALA should at least consider that.

Given those three principles, the strike force might consider the following as first steps:

1. Every single honoree and committee member is a trained and promoted public ambassador for the list in their community—in the media, in the retail, and in libraries. If a news outlet in Topeka, Kansas wants to do a story about the Caldecott book, they should at least be aware that the a Printz honoree or the chair of the Stonewall committee lives in their city—and that those awards were chosen with equal care. There are a lot more news-worthy early morning phone call stories than are presently reported.  Hell, you could even deputize editors in this aspect.

2. The strike force will help the Newbery and Caldecott honorees to lend some of their celebrity to winners of the awards that are now less well known.

3. The strike force will disseminate the list of awards in forms and through channels that are accessible to regular readers. Apps, shareable videos, whatever.

4. The strike force will reach out to retailers large and small who could use the awards lists to help their customers discover books.

5. The strike force will annually make non-binding recommendations to the various award committees about how they might optimize the way the awards are announced, how annotations are written, and when speeches and celebrations are held. However, the strike force will remain forever mute on the subject of selection criteria.

OK, that’s what I’d do with that million bucks I could give to the ALA. You?