Every five years YALSA and ACRL collaborate on Outstanding Books for the College Bound. Committee members select the best non-fiction, fiction, and poetry in five different academic areas. This time around some of my librarian friends were involved in the process and I really started to think about how useful this list could be, even if it often doesn’t get as much buzz as the yearly selection lists and awards.
First, it helps us do non-fiction reader’s advisory which can be a challenge for most of us. The gap in quality non-fiction on academic subjects between highly illustrated books whose complexity is more suitable for upper elementary students and adult materials is real.
That’s not to say that nothing exists, or that there is anything wrong with the high interest pop culture books we also need, but it can be challenging to serve the serious teen non-fiction reader. The OBCB list not only helps us serve these readers looking for the next step of reading, but it gives us the tools to turn open-minded readers onto reading non-fiction for pleasure.
The YALSA report The Future of Library Services For and With Teens points out teens need libraries that “Leverage teens’ motivation to learn.” It states that “Libraries live outside of a school’s formal academic achievement sphere and offer a space where interest based learning can occur in a risk-free environment.” Watching teens develop what may become lifelong interests and supporting them with the information and resources they need is one of my favorite parts of being a teen librarian.
The OBCB list is an amazing tool to do just that. Imagine introducing a young math whiz to Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t or placing a hold on a copy of Eula Biss’s Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays for a budding activist. Broadening a young person’s sense of a subject beyond the parameters of the classroom into real world applications is one of the greatest motivators for learning.
Finally, the OBCB gives us another tool to open communication with schools and teachers. Growing emphasis on non-fiction and increased pressure for students to read across the curriculum provides an excellent opportunity for public and school librarians to promote our collections and develop partnerships with classroom teachers. Having a vetted list of titles to offer, one developed along with ACRL colleagues, is a great starting point.