The comments on Cream of the Crop (and Jonathan’s follow up) are starting to resemble the sort of discussion we hope to have in person this Sunday in Oakland. But, are they really … discussion?
Even though there are now many ways to do it, the actual Newbery committees still generally refrain from email or online discussion, reserving all of the "real" discussion for the Midwinter meeting. There, at a table, the chair can facilitate to make sure that everyone participates, stays focussed on the criteria, and addresses every title adequately. She can also make sure that potentially contentious issues can be discussed thoroughly, without jeporadizing committee relationships. Equal care is given to the books, and the process. The award is what it is because of both. This balancing act is extremely hard to pull off when you can’t be with the people involved. (Newbery committees even generally go to the bathroom together. Or, rather, at the same time. :))
This is also why a live discussion is so much fun, and why I keep doing it. But I’m curious to try to figure out how one would conduct a Mock Newbery online that would best approximate the actual discussion. Here are some issues:
How do you make sure that everyone who is voting has a voice? Require registration and a certain number of postings for access to the ballot?
Does it need to be a linear discussion (one title at a time, in a chat room for instance)…or could it be free-floating to help organize thoughts…an online classroom, for instance, which discussion threads for each title? But then the discussion is all over the place, and you don’t have the benefit of "seeing" people leave the room and come back.
How do you make sure that everyone reads everyone else’s postings? (that is, listens?)
Wendy suggested in a comment somewhere trying to organize an online Mock discussion, and I’m not sure she had any bites. But I’d like to think about how to do this (perhaps for next year?), because I’m sure it can be done well. And the more heads the better on this one.
I still don’t think it would be quite the same. Tone and body language just don’t read well on a screen, and are so important when trying to raise complex points and be understood. The SLJ blogging software makes it extremely difficult to keep up with the comments, and while the comments display linearly, they don’t develop that way. It’s hard to call it a discussion when you don’t know who you’re talking to, or how long they’ve been listening.
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About Nina Lindsay
Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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