During 2012, I spent every spare moment of my time reading and rereading young adult (YA) literature. As part of the 2013 Printz Committee, I joined eight of my fellow librarians in reading and discussing books. It was one of the highlights of my career. I learned so much about reading critically, discussing books, and evaluating literature, and these are skills that will stay with me and help me become a better librarian.
As a youth services librarian, I was aware of the Printz Award early in my career. In library school, one of the units in my literature class was to read Printz winners and honor books. Yet, as I told those around me about my work on the committee, I was surprised at how often I found myself explaining the Printz Award to those inside the library world. I expected my friends and family to not always know what the Printz Award was, but I was taken aback by the number of colleagues who had no idea about this award for young adult literature. It made me think about how this important award needs support and promotion from within the library community, and not just from young adult librarians, but from everyone.
The Michael L. Printz Award was first awarded in 2000. According to the Young Adult Library Services Association, the sponsoring ALA division, it “is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.”1 While the reputation of the genre has grown over the years, YA literature can still be perceived as simple and not literary. I believe the Printz Award is important because it shines a light on high-quality literature being written for teens.
So how can we promote the Printz Award to library colleagues and to the public?
- Host a Mock Printz Discussion. As a librarian, there is nothing I love more than talking about books. Mock awards discussions are the perfect opportunity to engage staff and patrons in book discussions as well as introduce a variety of young adult titles. Mock award discussions may take some work to get going, but are well worth it in the long run. Choose a list of titles to discuss and a date to meet. Make sure the list is available with plenty of reading time. Then when the program date arrives, spend time discussing the selected titles and vote for your winners and honor books. Don’t worry if not everyone that attends hasn’t read the selected titles. You can always allow participants to vote based on the discussion they heard and explain that the real committee will be reading and rereading their own selected titles. Mock Award programs are a wonderful way to get both staff and patrons involved in reading young adult literature, and it’s a great program for teens and adults to participate in together. There’s also something very satisfying about correctly guessing a winner or honor book!
- Display the Printz winners—and not just during award season. Displays are easy and effective marketing. Put Printz Award winners and honor books on display, create a booklist that features all the winning titles,and make a bookmark that lists Printz titles. Award displays are great for any time of the year and make a nice complement to National Library Week, which happens in April, and Teen Read Week, which happens in October.The Thursday of National Library Week is Support Teen Literature Day, and what better way to support teen literature than to highlight examples of literary excellence in teen literature?
- Create a Printz book club. Take a peek at the past by looking at previous Printz winners and honor books. Ask teens about their thoughts on previous Printz titles, and teach them about reading critically and evaluating literature. I love how book clubs can help teens learn how to think critically and evaluate what they have read. It also gives them the freedom to give their opinions on books, which helps them formulate why they liked or disliked something in the book.
- Participate in a Printz Reading Challenge. Ask staff and patrons to read previous Printz titles and create a reading challenge. Many readers make it a goal to read award winners, so why not include the Printz winners in that list? You could even highlight the Printz Award as part of the Summer Reading Program and give participants a goal of reading one Printz Award winner during their summer reading.
- Book talk Printz Award titles to patrons and staff. I’m often asked to give book talks to schools, and I make sure I include award winners when I take books to book talk. I also make sure I highlight award winners to staff. Each month we have a youth services meeting to host readers’ advisory discussions. We discuss award predictions and book talk titles that have won awards previously as part of our readers’ advisory. I also try to keep my staff up-to-date on award titles and give them book talks on winning titles that they can share with patrons.
- Advertise award winners on Social Media. Throughout the year, promote Printz titles on the library website and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. My library has televisions that run PowerPoint throughout the day advertising library programs and news. After the awards were announced in January, we made sure to put up the award-winning titles on the PowerPoint TVs to tell patrons they could check out these titles at the library.
- Show the Youth Media Awards Webcast at your library. Each year the American Library Association hosts a live webcast of the Youth Media Awards. This year I was able to have my staff tune into the awards webcast, and we projected the webcast on the big screen in our auditorium. We made sure the event was open to staff as well as any patrons who wanted to attend. Since we had talked about the awards season leading up to the announcements and hosted a Mock Award event, patrons were interested in finding out which titles had won. Take a cue from the Oscars and have those in attendance guess what titles they think will win before the announcements. You can even pass out prizes for the most correct predictions.• Talk about the Printz Award. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing. When you talk about awards to patrons or staff, be sure to include the Printz Award in the discussion.
Even though the Printz Award is still a relatively new award, it’s making its mark on young adult literature. Together, we can help promote the Printz Award to those in the library community as well as introduce it to library patrons. The Printz Award shines a light on excellence in young adult literature, and that’s something we as librarians should be proud of.
- Young Adult Library Services Association, “Printz Award,” accessed May 14, 2013.