Monday, October 19, 2009

The Mighty Nobel

The AppointmentAt this time of year, every year, librarians and literature lovers wait for the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Part of the anticipation for librarians is whether the Library already owns the award-winning author’s books. This year we quickly ordered Ms. Herta Muller’s books, as they were not ones that had come to our attention in the past. We immediately placed orders for duplicate copies, to meet the needs of our literary patrons.

The Land of Green PlumsIn some libraries where I have worked, the owning of Nobel Literature prize winner’s books BEFORE it was announced earned a badge of great respect from other libraries. Some librarians would do a “football” pool on possible nominees/winners prior to the announcement. Few won both contests, but those who did proudly displayed their gold stickered badge made from gold paper and foil stars stuck on it. (You remember the stars some teachers would put on you tests or papers…)

Traveling on One LegSome librarians feel the same way about the British Booker Prize: if they haven’t read at least one third of the nominated titles, they feel they have slipped in their literary achievements. Being published in the UK, that is a book less likely to be available in the States until it wins. A friend told me recently that she just did not like the Booker Prize winners that she had read. I suggested she read other books by that author, since sometimes the award seems to go to an author for that earlier book that did not win. And pick up the nominees’ books which are of similar top literary quality.

The PassportI am not sure what it is with librarians and award books. In children’s literature the Newbery and Caldecott are treated in the same way. Librarians pride themselves on having selected an award winner before it gets an award. The year Charlotte’s Web was published, 90% of librarians guessed wrong. They loved Charlotte’s Web and lobbied for it to win the Newbery Award. But they were defeated by a committee who selected Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark. The latter is still a good read, but never reached the heights of E.B. White’s now-classic tale.

In any case, I make a list of must-reads and put them on hold at the Library. The award winners will fill many a cold NM night.

by PCH @Main

No comments: