One of the most unique aspects of Junior Library Guild is our Editorial Team. We are committed to bringing the best new books to young readers, but how exactly do we do that? The Editorial Team reads thousands of manuscripts every year and chooses the best new books based on a wide variety of criteria. They then sort these books into our categories, and we work with our publishers to bring them right to the shelves of our members.
So how does the Editorial Team work? How do they make their selections? The team of 12 (including one Editorial Administrative Assistant and 11 traditional Editorial Team readers) has a lot of ground to cover.
We sat down with the newest member, Maggie Bokelman, to learn more about her and to find out what it's like to work on the team. Maggie was a middle school librarian for 15 years before making the jump to JLG about a month ago.
Do you have a specific book that made you fall in love with literature?
I've honestly loved books from the time I was very little. My first-grade teacher used to just send me to the library in lieu of participating in reading lessons. I remember loving Robert McCloskey's picture books when I was very young (Make Way For Ducklings, etc.). He visited our local public library when I was 5. Meeting him, and having the opportunity to watch him draw a few sketches is one of my earliest memories.
In your own words, can you describe how the Editorial Team works?
Basically, the editorial team splits up the JLG categories. However, a lot of books can fall into multiple categories and are not just being looked at by one person. Sometimes we have discussions about the books, you know, if there's one that we really like, but we're trying to decide, would it be better in sports? Or would it be better in one of the nonfiction categories? So, there are those kinds of conversations that go on.
What is your favorite part, so far, about being on the Editorial Team?
Honestly, just getting the exposure to all the wonderful books. You have to be a voracious reader and just love reading. I just love children's literature, and being able to literally spend my day reading children's and young adult books is just delightful.
What categories are you currently reading?
I'm currently reading a lot of nonfiction and graphic novels, as well as some fantasy books for middle and high school students.
About how many books would you say you read per day?
It completely depends on how long they are. I recently read a book that was actually published for adults, but as being considered for an adult crossover category. That took me like a day and a half. It was long, it was technical. Right now, I'm reading books for our series nonfiction categories. These are short informational books for elementary and middle school students. And you might get through five or ten. It varies drastically by length.
Do you read hard-copy books or eBooks?
They are all eBooks. I usually read the picture books and the graphic novels on a larger monitor. I have a second monitor and so I use that but if it's if it's a book that's all text, I send it to my Kindle and then, if the weather is nice, I can just sit outside and read.
When you were a librarian, were you a JLG member?
I was a subscriber for like 15 years, the entire time I was there. I loved it, I really loved it.
How would you say JLG benefitted your library?
I mean for one thing. I just didn't have time to order new books on a monthly basis and with Junior Library Guild you'd be getting books regularly. It was fun to get books in my library that were really, more or less, hot off the press. I also really enjoyed using Junior Library Guild to try out some of their different categories, especially ones that maybe I wasn’t as knowledgeable about. It was useful for me to see what other experts thought. And I would often read the junior library guild books that came in and many of their selections ended up being award winners.
Do you think your experience as a school librarian is helping you on the editorial team?
Oh, absolutely. Yes. Because obviously I was looking at books all the time. I was always reading and evaluating books, so it definitely has given me a good base of knowledge. And then on top of that librarians are our primary customers. So, I have a perspective there, as to how they use the service and what they need.
What was your favorite part about being a librarian?
I always used to say that one of my favorite parts was selecting the books, which makes sense, because that's what I'm doing full time now. I really did enjoy helping kids find books that they liked. And that was always just a great feeling when a kid asks you for a recommendation, and you help them find a book, and then they come back later and say, “Oh, do you have anything else like that?”
What do you look for in JLG selections?
That is a good question. It really is category specific. If I could think of anything that transcends the categories a little bit, I would just say, maybe a fresher or unique take on something. Something that hasn't been done too many times, or if it's been done a lot, a fresh take on it. Something that kids are really going to want to read. That's something we consider - we're looking for high quality, but we also want to make sure that we're putting books out there that the kids are going to want to read.
Do you have a favorite JLG selection?
I can't pick a favorite JLG selection, but I can tell you when I was a librarian one of the things I loved about JLG was that it drew my attention to many wonderful books I might not otherwise have come across. One book like this was The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sarah Miller. It's a fascinating, and also heart-wrenching, nonfiction book.