The impact of book awards: A journal article review

The impact of book awards: A journal article review

Hateley’s 2012 journal article And the winner is…?: Thinking about Australian book awards in the library is a thought provoking exploration into the impact award winning books have on libraries, the communities they serve and the culture of society. While Hateley discusses book awards for both adults and children, at least a third of the article focuses upon the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards. One key idea presented by Hateley (2012) is that children’s literature is a ‘socialising genre’ where children are socialised into the beliefs and values of society, and thus judges of children’s awards are not just choosing books but the national ideologies of future generations. To better clarify this idea, Hateley uses the concept as libraries as mirrors to explain that while book collections are formed by a community and thus reflect that community, the book collection can transform a community as people re-evaluate the image of society that is reflected back at them.

Book awards are intended to showcase the best of the best of any particular genre and many libraries use book awards as a way to introduce quality literature into their collections during a time period when both library space and budgets are limited and the amount of books to choose from is overwhelming. Many Australian libraries, including the State Library of Queensland (2005) note in their collection development policies that when adding to their collection that there will be “particular emphasis on award-winning books and classics of the genre” (p.79).  While this may seem a way to ensure a fair representation of Australian literature is added to the collection, Hateley raises concerns that the criteria and selection process of Australian awards is creating bias within collections which can then offer a distorted reflection of society’s values.

Hateley (2012) reports in here article, that of the three prestigious Australian book awards of 2011 that she examines, the Children’s Book Council of Australia – Book of the Year award, the Miles Franklin Literary Award and the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, a total of 26 judges reduced 1055 books to 11 of Australia’s ‘best’. This potential for biased selection in book awards is perhaps best exemplified in the 2011 shortlist of the Miles Franklin Literary Award (2014) where, in an award intending to showcase Australian life, all three shortlisted books were about white male main characters, in a historical time, in a rural setting and all written by men. It should be noted however that Hateley is not saying book awards are wrong, indeed they can bring very good books into the spotlight, instead she suggests that the debates and discussions which lead to particular books receiving an award somehow be preserved so that future generations may understand the cultural and social environment in which those selections were made.

This journal article made me aware of the careful selection that should be used when adding books to a children’s collection. For as much as the judges may be choosing a nation’s ideologies, by selecting one book over another to add to the collection, I too am choosing the values and beliefs that young readers will gain from those books. By becoming aware of the reliance on book awards that many libraries have, I can work to provide children and young adults within a with a diverse collection, with the intention of expanding their education and experiences to help them grow into positive members of the community.

Markers, please be aware that this blog post has been edited to clarify the relevance of the journal article to children’s book awards. The comments below this article were made before these edits were made. Thank you for your understanding.

References

Hateley, E. (2012). And the winner is…?: Thinking about Australian book awards in the library. The Australian Library Journal, 62(3), 189-199.

Miles Franklin Literary Award. (2014). The 2011 shortlist. Retrieved December 29, 2013, from http://www.milesfranklin.com.au/shortlist

State Library of Queensland. (2005). Collection development policy. Retrieved December 29, 2013, from http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/37121/Collection_Development_Policy_Final_rev.pdf

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2 thoughts on “The impact of book awards: A journal article review

  1. Your blog on the Book awards was very informative, I would agree with your discussion of Haley’s comment concerning the issue of focussing on book awards in the selection of books as many of the books I have enjoyed in the past have not been award winners (or classics.) However, the effect those books have on societies value has always been a debated topic. (As a previous student of media and communications, I would have to say that the reading audience is not necessarily a passive one.) I found reading about the fact that one year of the miles franklin awards had shortlisted historical books written only by men interesting (however, I was wondering if it was only one year or a pattern.) I would agree however that this is a good example of how restricted collections could get if all they did was focus on book awards. Now that you discussed how books are selected for different libraries, I am interested in doing more research on the library where I work to see if this is being done in the same way.

  2. The Library where I work, and all of the Libraries within our consortia add Book Award Titles to our standing order lists. So all titles that are noted or shortlisted for major book awards for children as well as the INKY Awards for young people, are automatically purchased for our collections.However this amounts to a tiny proportion of our overall spending in Children’s and Youth Collections. The judging process for CBCA nominated books is a long and serious one with 8 judges scoring each book over months of reading a variety of books. With many different categories in which to obtain recognition I wonder if it is an issue of just what is actually being written in Australia, rather than Book Awards depicting limited view of life in our communities. Sharon McIlwee.

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