Evanston librarian chosen for Caldecott Award selection committee


Source: Evanston Public Library

Brian Wilson was selected to be a part of the 2017 Caldecott Award Selection Committee. Wilson has worked at the Evanston Public Library since 2001.

Rachel Yang, Reporter


The Evanston Public Library announced this month that Brian Wilson, a children’s librarian, was chosen to be a part of the 2017 Caldecott Award Selection Committee.

The award has previously been given to acclaimed works like “Where the Wild Things Are” and “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and is considered one of the most prestigious prizes for picture books.

Wilson said this accomplishment is a “career dream” for him, as he has always had a passion for children’s books and has been working in children’s libraries since 1990. His current responsibilities at EPL, where he has worked since 2001, include selecting and buying books for the children’s department, running a preschool storytime and additional programming.

Wilson said he learned of his selection in early May, after being first nominated and then voted for by members of the Association for Library Service to Children. He will join the other members of the committee to select the winner of the 2017 Caldecott Award, which will be announced that year in January.

Wilson said there is a long list of criteria for choosing the final book, but there are key elements the committee looks for.

“The thing that jumps out at me is, ‘Does it respect the child?’” Wilson said. “’Does it not talk down to the children, to the young people?’ … ‘Does it respect the emotional intelligence of the child?’ Children and tweens are very sharp and they know when they are being talked down to.”

For Wilson, the significance of picture books transcends the images. He said picture books help inspire children, and he is happy to see the Caldecott Award celebrate their important role.

“What makes (the Caldecott Award) special is it celebrates creativity,” Wilson said. “Books like ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ … it inspires children who want to be artists. For a community like Evanston, the arts are so important … (and) the artists are really great role models for (children) to become artists.”

Wilson’s colleagues also attested to the qualities that make him a fitting choice for the Caldecott committee.

“He’s got a deep and wide knowledge on what makes a good picture book,” said Karen Danczak Lyons, EPL’s library director. “What distinguishes it from an average book, what will appeal to children. Children’s books are an important part of how we tell stories. So he’s really an expert in this area.”

Martha Meyer, a librarian assistant at EPL, said Wilson’s thoroughness makes him a great librarian and a fitting choice to be on the Caldecott selection committee. For example, in the past, when he was selected to be on a national committee to select a winning audiobook, Meyer said Wilson went above and beyond what was expected of most reviewers.

“You have to listen to all these audio books, like hundreds and hundreds,” Meyer said. “But what he did was, while he listened to them, he had the book in front of him and he was tracking whether the actor read every word. So not all the people sitting on … the committee would check to see whether all the words were said properly … and he sat there, with the book, for every single one of them. It’s just incredible dedication.”

Despite the accolades and the supportive response from the community about his accomplishment, Wilson said the best part of his job, at the end of the day, is still the interactions with kids and seeing their love of reading blossom.

“I’ve been (at EPL) for so long now, you see kids who I knew as babies,” he said. “Now they’re coming in as tweens or teens, and coming in and taking out armfuls of books. And hearing that the library meant a lot to them, I feel like we’re making an impact.”

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