Middle Grade Monday – Battle of the Books
Or, “How I Ended Up on a Committee I’m Not Exactly Passionate About.”
My state’s school librarian association runs a number of programs designed to promote and celebrate reading. The one with the longest track record is Battle of the Books. Each year students read a list of 25 (or so) titles and form school teams to battle quiz-bowl style in the school districts. Winners from each district go on to a regional competition, then regional winners go to the state competition. The state competition was held this past Thursday. Since there are nine regions, and each team gets a chance to battle each other team, there are 36 rounds. I got to be time keeper for all 36 rounds. It went a lot faster than you might imagine The librarians who have been on the committee for a while now really have the system down and everything goes like clockwork.
In fact, some of the librarians have been on the committee for quite a while and are passionate about the program. I am less so, for a number of reasons. The primary reason is that I’m not a fan of competition – it makes me really anxious. The secondary reason is that it costs a good deal of money to reach relatively few students. Its cost/benefit ratio is somewhat prohibitive, especially for schools with minimal or no budget. The list of books contains award winning titles, some old, some new, but seldom ones I would invest our meager funds in for more than one copy.
So why, you might wonder, did I volunteer for this committee? Well, to understand you might need some background. I was a girl scout (not personality-wise, but literally) as a child, and that, along with my parent’s Kansas sensibilities and my involvement in church led me to a certain pattern where volunteer opportunities are concerned. The first time an opportunity is offered, I consider it thusly, “Is this something I am excited about?” If yes, and I have the necessary skills, I volunteer. If no, I wait to see if someone else will volunteer. Often, things that don’t appeal to me will be someone else’s passion – I wouldn’t want to deny them the opportunity. However, the fourth or fifth time a call goes out, I feel compelled to answer (given that my skill set is a match.) So, that’s how I ended up on the committee.
On the bright side, the committee decides the books for each year’s list, and I’m hopeful that I will be able to introduce some new choices that will both fit the list requirements and be items that my students are enthusiastic about. We’ll see.
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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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