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Q&A with Newbery Committee Member

Exciting things are happening in the literary world. Ahead of the announcement of the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King Book awards at the Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 25 at 8 a.m. CT, we talked with one of the Newbery Committee members who is actually our Executive Director, Susan Dove Lempke.

Library: What is the John Newbery Medal?

Susan: The Newbery Medal award is presented by the Association for Library Service to Children that is given to the writer of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”. This year will be the 100th Newbery Award!

Library: How long have you been a member of the Newbery Committee?

Susan: The Newbery Committee appointment is for one year, and there are 15 members. My committee read the books published for children in 2020.

Library: As part of the Newbery Committee, how many books do you have to read?

Susan: You read roughly a book a day for a year, but some books take longer and as you get closer to deciding, you also have to do some re-reading.

Library: What was the most difficult part about choosing a winner this year?

Susan: The hardest part was the pandemic. That made it hard to focus on reading for a while, and also the publishers started sending some of the books electronically instead of in print. It was really a challenge to keep track of where to find a particular book (Is it on my Kindle? Did I put it in Dropbox? Is it on another platform?) and also I discovered at one point that when my Dropbox got full that it started deleting things. So trying to do that while also having to make lots and lots of decisions about running the library during a pandemic was not the easiest.

Library: What are you most excited about the Youth Media Awards this year?

Susan: I’m excited to watch the YMAs with my committee via Zoom—we’ll get to see what all of the other committees picked, and then the Newbery comes last. And then I will be very excited to see this year’s Newbery added to our collection!

To follow the results, you can visit the American Library Association’s streaming platform or ALA’s social media at Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter by following the hashtag #alayma.

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