Let’s Talk About the Cybils
For several years, TLTer Amanda MacGregor and I have been honored to get to participate in the Cybils. The Cybils are book awards given out by bloggers.
Here’s how it works.
In September, the call goes out for judges in various categories. There are two levels of judges: first round panelists and second round judges. I have always been a first round panelist in either the Young Adult Fiction or Young Adult Speculative Fiction categories. Amanda has been a second round judge multiple times. I’ll tell you more about this distinction in a moment.
In October, nominations open. The first 2 weeks, nominations are open to the general public. The second two weeks, nominations are open to publishers and authors. Anyone can nominate book titles during those open weeks as long as they meet the criteria. You can find more specific nominating information here.
In the first round, panelists have to read the books nominated. This year, in the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category there are around 85 books nominated. So now I’m busy trying to read those books. There’s a database where we keep track of our reading. We also keep a working shortlist. There are also behind the scenes discussions that take place. These discussions get more intense as we get closer to the end of December, where we have to put together one shortlist which we then share online and send to the second round judges.
At the end of December, we create a shortlist. Typically in the past there are something like 8 to 10 titles that we put on a shortlist. It can vary depending on discussions, category moderator, etc. Each first round panelist is tasked with writing a short annotation for a title on the shortlist for when it is announced online. Then their part is done.
The list is then given to the second round judges who must read each shortlisted title and pick a category winner. As a first round panelist, it’s always interesting to see which title is chosen as the winner from that shortlist. Sometimes you rejoice, sometimes your heart is broken. But it’s always so fascinating. These winners are announced on Valentine’s Day.
As I have mentioned, I have participated many years over the last 10 years. The thing I love most about the Cybils is the behind the scenes book discussions that happen. If you’ve ever talked with someone who passionately loves a book, you will get the appeal. And many times, fellow panelist members have gotten me to see things in books I hadn’t seen before. One year I campaigned hard for a book to be on the shortlist and was devastated when it didn’t make it. Another year, when a book I originally wanted on the short list was left off for concerns about how it depicted mental health issues, those behind the scenes discussions helped change the way I thought about mental health issues and fantasy books.
It’s a very time consuming but rewarding process. One year, I was a first round panelist and had to dial in and participate in the final group discussion while on a cruise in Mexico! That was Christmas 2019, the last time the world was not strange. It was a wild one.
I am honored every time I am chosen to participate, it is insightful, fun and rewarding. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of books to go read.
Filed under: Cybils
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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