ALA Midwinter 2015: Where’s the Red Carpet? An Inside Look at the Youth Media Awards

20150202_074414_HDRIn the early hours of a Monday in late January or early February, a phone rings. Someone picks up, and then a complete stranger informs them they have just won a prestigious literary award and soon a gold medal sticker will adorn all future copies of their book. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be on the receiving end of that call, but while we don’t get to experience this aspect of the Youth Media Awards unless we are on one of the committees- or one of the winners- the sense of amazement can still be experienced if you attend the ceremony. The whole room is electric with excitement, and chatter, and anticipation. The only thing missing is the red carpet!

pic_shot_1422887484950If I am at ALA Midwinter, and these last few years I have been lucky enough to be, I always go to the Youth Media Awards. The atmosphere inside the YMAs is definitely enthusiastic. Some people wouldn’t think a room full of librarians would get that loud, or that a book/author could be cheered like a rockstar, but when winners are announced at the Youth Media Awards there are shrieks and cheers from all over the room, and it’s usually a big room. This year there were plenty of seats, but in years past it has been standing room only or even overflowing into other rooms with video feeds. This is a big deal, y’all.

pic_shot_1422886394105For those who watch the presentation over the live stream, some of the excitement can be felt. The anticipation of learning who is going to win a Printz this year, or a Morris, or a Coretta Scott King can leave some of us bursting at the seams. The committees work hard and long, sometimes reading hundreds and hundreds of books, debating behind closed doors on the merit and value of each title. Selecting the winners and honorees is a long and thorough process, and part of the YMAs is recognizing the efforts of those who have spent the past year sifting through the boxes of books and audiobooks and videos they receive in order to give recognition to the best of the best. Their dedication deserves recognition, too!

20150202_080541_HDRIf you’re following along with the awards on Twitter, it’s easy to see how big of an event this is. During the ceremony people are frantically typing out who won what honor, and who won the gold medal- or who won several times. Heads are bowed down over phones, phones are held up over heads snapping pictures of the screens, and even as awards are being announced they are being discussed excitedly in little groups around the room. This year the hashtag #alayma was trending nationwide for hours after the ceremony was over. Authors, illustrators, publishers and librarians tweeted and re-tweeted each other with congratulations and many exclamation points. Twitter has become as much a part of the YMAs as the ceremony itself, in part due to its ability to immediately share information with large numbers of people. We all remember Neil Gaiman’s infamous tweet after winning the John Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book, after all!

It really is a thrilling thing to be at the VMAs, even if you’re not familiar with all of the titles that win (which is the boat I am usually in). This year we have a very diverse group of winners and honorees, all of which can be found here, and all of which I hope to read in the future. Speaking of reading… The Hub Reading Challenge begins today, too, so be sure to click here  for more information on that!

-Carla Land, currently reading Strobe Edge volume 10