Teens Plus Books: Honoring the Best in Literature and Reading Programs through the Sagebrush Award

By von Wrangel Kinsey, Cara | Young Adult Library Services, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Teens Plus Books: Honoring the Best in Literature and Reading Programs through the Sagebrush Award


von Wrangel Kinsey, Cara, Young Adult Library Services


As YALSA looks back over its first fifty years, the Sagebrush Award Jury has begun to reflect on the history of the award. When any anniversary comes around, people tend to experience a series of reactions. We reminisce about what has come before. We assess where we are now. We look toward the future. It is wonderful that YALSA booklists have brought recognition to what was once an underappreciated genre. It is heartening that YALSA advocates have helped to greatly increase the number of young adult librarians in the country. It is inspiring that Margaret A. Edwards and Michael L. Printz have achieved national recognition through the awards given in their names.

The year 2007 has been one for honoring the great leaps of YALSA-kind, but the Sagebrush Award has spent almost twenty years awarding the small steps, the people who work in libraries, and the people who love young adults. Every day, young adult librarians do amazing things that positively affect the teens with whom they interact. They reach teens in groups, and they connect with them individually. They bring books to teens and, in turn, teens to books. The books that they introduce might change a worldview, help a mourning process, or help teens realize that they are not alone.

The Sagebrush Award recognizes librarians who find innovative ways to connect teens with books, and proceeds to connect those librarians with ALA and YALSA. Formed in 1988, the committee began its mission to reward a member of YALSA who "developed an outstanding reading or literature program for young adults." As stated in the application document (www.ala.org/ala/yalsa/awardsand grants/sagebrush.pdf), the submitted program must "bring young adults and books together" and "encourage the development of life-long reading habits" The Sagebrush Corporation provides $1,000 to support the recipient's attendance at ALA's Annual Conference. Just as YALSA was once named the Young Adult Services Division (YASD), the Sagebrush Award has not always been so named. In 2000, the name of the award was changed from the EconoClad Award to the Sagebrush Award for Young Adult Reading or Literature Program when Econo-Clad was purchased by the Sagebrush Corporation.

In 1999, Donna McMillen won the Econo-Clad Award for her teen review group. The teens read and reviewed books nominated for Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA). At a time when official teen participation in BBYA was just entering a pilot stage, Donna was a librarian who had never attended a conference and never served on a committee. Still, she was more than willing to organize her teens to review and provide feedback for a local BBYA committee member. Donna still enjoys connecting books with patrons, and her library continues its review group. For Donna, the trip to ALA Annual Conference meant a new era for her own work and her strong leadership in YALSA. She has since served on the Printz committee and chaired BBYA. In return, appointment to committees helped Donna secure financial support from her local library to continue to go to conferences, and she has attended each Annual Conference since. Words of wisdom from Donna. "Attend YALSA events at the ALA conference; volunteer for committees; reach out and network--our fellow librarians are doing fascinating work! Learn and grow--there is so much that can be done."

Diane Tuccillo, formerly of the City of Mesa Library; won in 2004 for the Open Shelf newsletter (http://mesalibrary.org/ teens/books/openshelf.aspx). Teens write reviews for the newsletter that are posted online and distributed in print to all the junior and senior high schools in the area, thus reaching both national and local audiences. Still going strong, Open Shelf is a good example of a cooperative project between a school and public library.

Diane reminds us that winning the award celebrates not only the librarian who wins, but also the students who participated in the program. Diane was inspired to apply for the award using a program that she had been conducting for years because she was about to leave her position and wanted the teens to be recognized for their hard work. …

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