Silence is golden

Silence is golden

Or – How a pair of ear defenders saved my sanity/marriage!


What’s a CKG Judge to do?  The nominations are announced, you’re giddy, enthusiastic, a little bit overwhelmed and DESPERATE for those book deliveries to start hitting the doormat so that you can get cracking!

It’s amazing, you have a few INCREDIBLY productive weekends where you’re ticking off titles left, right and centre, you’re organised, your notes are impeccable, you could move mountains!  Hurrah, you’re a reading machine!  You’re in control!  This CKG judging lark is a breeze!

Then….If you’re anything like me, you realise that you haven’t actually seen or spoken to anyone for quite some time.  Your Facebook & Twitter pages have been left abandoned, your friends are beginning to wonder what they have done to offend you and you start to forget what your family actually LOOK like! I realised that there had been a few weekends where I had not left the house at all since arriving back from work on Friday and going back to work on Monday!  I started to become conscious of just how much I hated the colour of my bedroom and how desperately I needed some company other than the company of my marvellous books.

Now I know that some people are just brilliant at reading anywhere.  They can zone out and switch off, lost to their reading and oblivious to the chaos swirling around them.  I am not one of these people!  I need peace, I need quiet and I preferably need a significant stash of biccies close to hand.  In my first year of judging especially, I did almost all of my reading at home, upstairs on my bed in complete silence.  The occasional ‘whoop’ or choice word from my husband downstairs as Liverpool scored (or did not) as he shouted at the tele was the only sound that invaded my reading space.  I started off the same way this year and you know what?  However great the company was of Apple and Rain, Seth, Comity and the hundreds of characters I was sharing experiences with as the weeks ticked by – I  realised I was a bit lonely.  Then I had a revelation!

I was back in Yorkshire one weekend visiting my parents when good old Dad (probably sick of my moaning) appeared from the garage with a pair of industrial ear defenders.  He used to be a mechanical engineer you see, so he had a couple of pairs hanging around.   These slightly dusty, unglamorous earmuffs were a total game changer! I loved them!  I was soon nestled on the couch surrounded by my family, the TV was blaring, chatter was relentless, but I didn’t care!  I couldn’t hear a thing and was able to concentrate on my reading, but I didn’t feel quite so cut off from the goings on around me.  I was part of it and yet I wasn’t. It was perfect!

I spent the whole of Christmas in my ear defenders, even if I did get a few funny looks!  I was happily lost in my reading but not isolated and left out of all the fun that was going on around me.  I had my fair share of Roses & Quality Street and I still got to see everyone, I could multitask! My poor husband had barely seen me since October so it was great that I was downstairs with him and could still cosy up on the couch.  (Though he doesn’t look too thrilled in this pic does he?)

Kara & hubby

Ear defenders are my BIG tip for future CKG judges, I might even pass mine on to the next judge for Wales now that my time is coming to an end.  Yes, you look a bit crackers I admit, but the pros far outweigh the cons.  I only wish I had discovered their amazing benefits a year earlier!

A Second Year Judge’s Experience

Kathryn%20Flagner%20-%20North%20West[1]Kathryn Flagner is the Senior Librarian at Workington Library, Cumbria.

This is my second year as a CKG judge, and I thought I was well prepared, as I had read lots more children’s and young people’s books than I normally do, and I read quite widely ordinarily.  Then at the judges training day I was given the nominations list and was amazed at how many books were on it, 91 for Carnegie alone!  I would disagree with Matt Imrie when he says that the amount of reading at that stage means personal hygiene becomes optional.  I would though say housework goes out of the window!

Becoming a CKG judge means committing to a number of tasks, one of these is to re-read all of the short listed books.  This is a much less fraught process than the initial reading of all nominations, indeed the time span is almost leisurely.  I find that I enjoy the books more on this second reading, as I am not thinking about the pile of books still to read.  More importantly on a second, or even a third reading if there is time, details are picked up that might have been missed on a first reading.  The notes I am now taking are very detailed, including quotations that support points I want to make when discussing the books at the final judging session.

This might all sound like hard work, but I think it is worth it for the benefits of being a CKG judge.  What else would allow me to spend days talking about great books with people who are equally passionate about books and reading?

On Judges & Judging

Matt Imrie is the librarian at Farringtons School, Chislehurst and is the YLG London judge.

The short-lists are out; weeks of biting one’s tongue during discussions about the Medals have paid off. No-one spilled the beans early and ruined it for everyone, the CKG Judges code of silence makes the Mafia look like a leaky boat by comparison.

That has been one of the hardest things about the awards – choosing titles and then having to keep quiet about it all. For weeks I have seen friends and colleagues post their thoughts and wish-lists about the short-lists and be shut out from the joy of discussing the books. Then there are the people that try and wheedle the lists out and when that fails say things like “You had better not have chosen book X because then it will be YOUR fault if it wins!”

The judges are chosen from the 12 Youth Library Group regions across the UK plus the Chair to act as tie-breaker if necessary. The position is filled by representatives from the regional committees, yes they are mostly female as male librarians for children and young people are still a relative minority. In recent years this has led to accusations of gender bias from observers but the lists of winning titles do not support this. The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards are two of the most rigorous literary awards in the UK, among adults as well as other awards for young people’s literature. Judges get a full days training each year in the criteria and how to apply them to nominated titles, as previous winners and regular outcries among observers can attest these are not popularity contests.

Judging can be a lonely task, the 13 judges are spread across the UK, and we almost never see each other outside of official judging meetings. We do not really have time for many meetings as there is so much reading to be done, personal hygiene becomes optional, a full night’s sleep becomes a thing of the past and forget about sympathy from significant others “You chose to read all those books so don’t come crying to me!”

Not every librarian can be a judge, speaking personally and from what I have learned from my colleagues on the panel is that everyone involved wanted to be there! There was a desire to become involved and a willingness to sacrifice time, social life and more to learn so much about the books on the lists that one starts reciting chapters in their sleep.

Yes judging is a sacrifice – but one willingly made as the pay-off is beyond measure:

Choosing the most outstanding novel and illustrated book for children and young people and this year those choices have yet to be made!

Matt Imrie