Reflections on an Odyssey (a guest post)
To be honest, I’m not really sure how I got on the committee, which chooses the best in audiobook production for children or teens. I first served on the ALSC Membership Committee, then applied to be on any of the media award committees. I didn’t have any specific audiobook “history” other than being a listener, as many of us librarians are. When I met my fellow committee members and learned of their backgrounds, I definitely felt like a newbie, but I don’t think it mattered all that much. I was prepared to do my share of the work, to listen to their comments, and to soak up as much of this experience as I could.
Things started off slowly for us. We didn’t get a lot of submissions until late summer, and when it rained, it poured. When all was said and done, our committee of nine received more than 500 audiobooks. Some were disqualified right away because they weren’t published in the correct timeframe or for the appropriate audience. Most of the committee work was done online; we only met in person at Annual and then at Midwinter, when we chose the winners.
One of the most difficult aspects of being on the Odyssey Committee (aside from the amount of listening time involved), in my opinion, was separating the story from the audiobook production. The Odyssey Award is not based on the book’s popularity or its content. More so, the committee is focused on “technical and aesthetic aspects, including the effective use of narration as well as music and sound effects when they are incorporated into the production.”* We listened closely to the narrator(s), of course, but we were also listening for mispronunciations, muffled sounds, coughs, throat sounds, as well as music and sound effects. If accents were used, were they authentic? How are characters distinguished from one another? Were narrators consistent? Did read-alongs follow the text presented in the book? These are just some of the questions we had to ask ourselves while listening and re-listening to audios. Had I just been listening as a non-committee member, my primary concern would probably be whether I liked the story and its narrators—quite a bit simpler than being on the committee.
*For more on Odyssey eligibility and criteria, go to http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/odysseyaward/odysseyawardeligibilitycriteria/odysseycriteria
Filed under: Audio Books, Odyssey Awards
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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