The Lament of a Former Judge

Matt Imrie is the librarian at Farringtons School, Chislehurst and he was the 2015 – 2016 YLG London judge.

Matt Imrie

The announcement of the judges selections  for the 80th anniversary Carnegie Medal and  the 60th anniversary Kate Greenaway Medal is on Monday. This has stirred the cravings that I had more or less managed to suppress.

It started in October when the nominations lists were published, I gazed upon them and knew that I had not been ready to leave the judges panel even though I had sat my two year term. Sitting on the panel is addicting, the feeling you get working with other passionate, book-loving library folk who get what you say and contribute thought-provoking points of view about books you love and loathe is almost impossible to replicate elsewhere.

The nights I have lain awake wondering if (based on my memories of when the panels met) the judges were meeting to discuss the long and short lists are burned into my memory. The secret shame of envying my friends and colleagues is hard to bear! I am not hubristic enough to believe that I am needed on the panel – I know those who sit in judgement are talented, professional and just as dedicated as I was (if not more so).

One of the things I have learned is that it is incredibly hard to read the nominations list in time if you have to buy them or borrow them from a library yourself. So yeah – that did not quite work out.

I asked myself the question I think most ex-judges ask when the long and short lists were announced – “Would those have been the books that would have been chosen had I been on the panel?” (impossible to answer accurately but probably).

I think that running shadowing groups is a coping mechanism for many judges that are suffering from CKG withdrawal symptoms. We get to read the books with our students, compare them against the criteria and discuss them with excitable and passionate young readers.

They say that the first step in any recovery is admitting you have a problem but I love reading books and discussing them critically with friends and colleagues – we should all be so lucky to have such problems.

In the mean time I am happy to act as judge support – cheering the lists and authors on social media, educating students and other readers about the importance of the medals and celebrating quality writing for young readers of all ages.

Also I am planning for the day that I return to the judging panel – oh it may not be any time soon but I will make my way back on somehow… someday…


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