Judges and Screeners

Interested in being a screener and/or judge for the Ohioana Awards?

As Ohioana continues to focus on increasing the diversity, equity and inclusion across all our activities, the Ohioana Book Awards process could use your help. 

Every year, we recognize exceptional books in several categories, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young adult literature, juvenile literature, and works about Ohio or an Ohioan. First presented in 1942, the Ohioana Book Awards has become one of the most prestigious state literary prizes in the nation. Nearly every major Ohio writer from the past eight decades has been honored, including James Thurber, Toni Morrison, Michael Cunningham, Mary Oliver, Rita Dove, and Celeste Ng.

Throughout the judging process, we use screeners and judges to narrow down our vast list of candidates into category finalists and eventual winners. We want our screeners and judges to represent Ohio’s population, with diversity in race, age, gender, sexual orientation, geography, etc. Our team should be a microcosm of the Ohio we know and love. 

To that end, we are committed to finding diverse readers from across the state who are willing to put in the time to participate in the process (especially for screeners). Our ask is for you to help us expand our network of screeners and judges. A list of common questions about the process is listed below.

Would you be interested in becoming a screener or judge yourself? Or, do you know someone in your literary community who would be interested?

If so, please use this form to indicate interest, and we’ll contact those people: https://ohioanalibrary.typeform.com/to/JjjKPycv

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a screener and a judge?

Screeners: Volunteers who review all books in consideration for the award in their category and contribute a ranking of their top five books. Each category will have at least five (5) screeners. Screeners can continue as judges in the final round. There is a five-year term limit for screeners (one category per year), with a three-year break. A renewal option is available as needed due to a shortage of new screeners. 

Judges: Volunteers who review all finalists in their category and contribute a ranking of those finalists. Each category will have at least seven (7) judges (which can include screeners from the category). There is no term limit for judges. 

What categories struggle to find volunteers?

We can always use more screeners in every category! This year (2023) in particular, we are in search of more screeners for our Middle Grade/Young Adult category.

Am I qualified to be a screener or judge?

Ohioana Book Awards screeners/judges are volunteers from across the state who are familiar with literary excellence and past and present publications. They exhibit expertise or special knowledge in a book award category and/or are avid readers of a book category.   

Current judges and screeners are librarians, professors, historians, avid readers in a particular category, authors/poets, reviewers, bookstore owners/buyers/employees, etc.   

I’m hesitant to sign up to be a screener — seems like a lot of work. Tell me more about that process.

Being a screener is a lot of work, but it’s also the most important role in the process because screeners decide the top five books in their category. It’s also why we instituted a five-year term limit for screeners with a three-year break between terms — we want turnover in that position to ensure diversity from year to year. 

Another key thing to remember, “reviewing” all the books in consideration for the award in the category doesn’t mean reading every book cover to cover in a three-month span. Candidate lists can be more than 100 books long. Instead, screeners commit to researching each book (looking at professional reviews, accessing a copy to page through and read an excerpt, etc.) and then prioritizing the list and reading as many as possible. 

To get started, please visit this link for the full page form or fill it out below.