As nominations for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals opened last week, I thought I would introduce myself as the new chair of the judging panel and share some thoughts about the awards process and structure.
I am the senior librarian for young people services in East Lothian Libraries where I am responsible for both the children’s portfolio in public libraries and services to schools. The Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards mean a lot to me. I was the Scottish judge in 2008 and 2009 and found the experience one of the most rewarding and invigorating of my career. Granted, I did have to put my life on hold for several months, but how could I not relish the opportunity to discover so many great books and spend several days discussing them with like-minded professionals - and to be part of such an important award!
This feeling was shared with all my fellow judges, and the passion and dedication that everyone concerned brings to the process is partly what makes these awards so special. I say “partly” because although absolutely essential, these qualities are not sufficient - not even the weight of history and literary tradition would be enough to ensure the success and longevity of these awards. What makes them so special and prestigious is also the transparent and rigorous set of criteria which form the backbone of the judging process. These criteria are published and can be consulted by anyone.
Now, in a changing world the Carnegie Medal too must evolve and we are regularly considering revisions to the criteria. For example e-books are now eligible if they are published in the UK within the stated timescale. Therefore, when the suggestion was made this year to create a separate award for teenage fiction, we gave it due consideration, but found that this would not be in the spirit of the award for several reasons.
First of all, questions regarding the intended audience of a title have never been part of the criteria. To be eligible for the Carnegie Medal, books simply have to be published for children and young people and since the publishing industry does not distinguish between the two in terms of its structure, judges would then have to discuss whether a particular title is indeed suitable for children or should be in a different list for teenagers.
In practice, it would be nigh on impossible to administer: what would you do with the borderline cases? Who would decide which list a title goes in, at which point in the process, and using which criteria? However, beyond mere practicalities, I feel that the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals must reflect the publishing industry since they are highlighting what is best in children and young people’s publishing and this means continuing with a single list for children and young people.
Every member of CILIP can nominate two titles for each of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals. So, if you too would like to be involved, please, have a look at the criteria and send your nominations!