Meet Jen J of the Spreadsheets
Those of you who’ve followed us for a while may anticipate, as I do, commenter Jen J piping in to point us to her spreadsheet where she tracks starred reviews and best books. Many of us watch this data in some form or another…Jonathan has always been good at summarizing starred reviews in posts. But many of us may have itched to actually sit down and track it all, and then thought “Ugh! Too much!” Luckily, we now live in a world where if one person thinks “Ooh!” instead of “Ugh!” we can all benefit. Meet Jen J.
“Two things that have been true for me even when I was a child: I’ve been a collector (My Little Ponies, bookmarks, all sorts of things really) who loves to check things off of lists. I’ve also loved reading for as long as I can remember–my mother says I taught myself before kindergarten. Literary awards, therefore, are like catnip to me – things to collect and then read and then check off from a list!
“I was one of the lucky ones that got a job right before I graduated with my MLIS; I started at the Algonquin Area Public Library in Algonquin, IL (a northwest suburb of Chicago) as a Youth Services Librarian in April 2008. Sometime in the next year or so I started looking for blogs to follow that focused on Children’s Literature and the library world. I started with Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and eventually made my way to SLJs Blogs. I started following Heavy Medal in the Fall of 2009 and have been an avid reader of the blog ever since!
“The first spreadsheet I put together was actually my Award Winners spreadsheet (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvQVgmLQdcoJdEN2TklsOFA0SWNKR0ViZ2xHdXpvLUE&usp=drive_web#gid=0) in the fall of 2010. I got tired of looking up all the different awards and checking a bunch of different lists and decided I wanted all the information in a single location. Then I came up with the idea of highlighting which things I had read and which I hadn’t and boom – instant spreadsheet addiction.
“At the end of 2010, I came up with the idea to do a Best Books display in our library based on all the best of lists in the six journals our department followed – SLJ, Booklist, Horn Book, the Bulletin, PW, and Kirkus. The easiest way to make a printable list seemed to me, in the throes of my new spreadsheet addiction, obvious! I’ve made a Best Books spreadsheet and display every year since. Here’s the link to this year’s which is still a work in progress since Bulletin list is still to come: http://ow.ly/rb6K4
“Just as I was getting into tracking the stats and numbers of how these things worked, I started having questions about how starred reviews vs. best book lists vs. awards recognition affected each other (inspired by posts on Heavy Medal in particular). I was using Elizabeth Bluemle’s Shelf Talker blog over at PW to look at starred reviews, when in the fall of 2010, the star posts just stopped appearing! Keeping track of the stars is a huge task, so I wasn’t surprised by the decision to take a break, but I missed the information dearly. So I decided to start tracking the starred reviews myself starting with the 2011 publishing year. Plus this way the data was easily sortable and searchable and all sort of good things! Since then I’ve just kept adding to that spreadsheet which can be found here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvQVgmLQdcoJdDBNaE1ONW5majRnaVp5UnN3aWVTOHc&usp=drive_web#gid=0
“I love to play with numbers and data and such and have had such fun with that since I’ve started collecting all this information (Did I mention I was a Math Team nerd in high school?). My dream would be to someday do a giant research project with the years of starred review and best book list data from each of these journals and then look at the award winners, particularly the Caldecott, Newbery and Printz. I’m not sure there’s much of a market for that kind of analysis, but it would be a joy to research and try to make some conclusions – if there are any to be found! Maybe I’ll be able to talk some program into that being my PhD dissertation someday…….but for now I’m enjoying the challenges in my new position (as of August) as the Young Adult Librarian, still at the Algonquin Area Public Library. Working with teens is a whole new kettle of fish for me, but one that I’ve jumped into with both feet! And I’ll leave you all on that disturbing image…..”
Well Jen, I’d posit there’s a PhD dissertation in there for sure. This relationship (or the question of its existence) between reviews, best of lists, and awards is one that I think most children’s lit enthusiasts mull over, and has certainly cropped up over the years at the “old school” online children’s lit nerd community, the child_lit listserv.
Thank you for sharing the data…and that disturbing image. Lemon juice works well for the odor. Good luck.
Jennifer Jazwinski a the Young Adult Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public Library, and you can compare books with her at Goodreads.
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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 email@example.com
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