The Slovene Book Fair was eye-opening, it was incredible to see the levels of engagement and enthusiasm it generated among the public with schools, families and individuals attending to hear talks, meet with authors, peruse exhibitions of illustration and buy books. Slovenia was under a Socialist regime as part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Books and the arts played a key role in helping to preserve the national identity of the country and it feels there remains a great sense of pride and loyalty towards books. Despite this there are concerns about the future. The proportion of books published from the United Kingdom, combined with other media in spoken and written English leads to anxieties about the long-term impact on the Slovene language.
Alongside public engagement, one of the notable elements was the support mainstream media gave to the events with television and radio both present. Sessions provoked lively discussion and attendance and involvement from publishing students meant there were clear succession lines for the industry contributing to an impressively well-structured and sustainable base for the countries publishing and book trades.
The talk I was involved with looked at the role of criteria in book awards, how those are articulated and applied and the impact these have in terms of selection of books. As well as exploring some of the major children's book awards in the UK - the Costa, the Blue Peter, the Federation of Children's Book Groups and the proliferation of regional book awards that take place across the country and are aimed at empowering young people through enabling them a platform for their views and a vote.
Looking at the CILIP Carnegie medal gave pause for thought and the opportunity to think back to the Library Association review of children's literature in 1932 which described 'a few admirable books, submerged in an ocean of trash.
' The medals were set up to lobby for change.
During the trip to Ljubljana, an interview took place with a publishing student. One of their questions was what differentiates the CILIP Carnegie Medal. It's a question that has led to much reflection. One of the many answers is the transparency of its processes and criteria. Following on from the Diversity Review for the awards which happened in 2018, this is something that is being evaluated with thanks to the University of Central Lancashire. As one of the last public speaking engagements for 2018, talking at the Slovene Book Fair served was a genuinely upbeat, inspiring and uplifting occasion and one that has certainly given considerable food for thought around the role of book awards and their increased relevance as part of an array of models for recommending and profiling books, stories and information. It was fascinating to be part of the Fair and learn more about how Slovenia's award works and the impact that criteria has upon selection.