The American Library Association has announced the award of the the second annual Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity to Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Public Library in Missouri. The award, co-founded by Daniel Handler, author of the Lemony Snicket books, and “co-administered by ALA’s Governance Office and the Office for Intellectual Freedom, annually recognizes and honors a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact.”

Bonner was honored for his work in keeping the Ferguson Public Library open in August 2014 during the riots and other unrest which followed the shooting of unarmed teenager Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson. His actions not only showed courage, but also exemplary zeal and focus in providing library services that were actually relevant to the situation and aimed to help support the community through it. You can see his own photo, taken at the time, above.

The ALA statement explains in detail, and is worth quoting in full:

Bonner began his action by placing a simple sign in front of the library doors saying, “Stay Strong Ferguson. We are family.” Through the following weeks, with the help of volunteers, Teach for America, church groups and local educators recruited by Bonner, the library was able to offer educational programming and served up to 200 children per day, expanding programming to create a safe place to be. With racial tensions at a boiling point, he organized community groups to offer a broad range of programs and services to help individuals and businesses recover, as well as hosted many non-profit organizations working to help Ferguson. With donations from the good will of nearly 13,000 people across the country Bonner developed a library collection focused on civic engagement, diversity, the history of civil rights and trauma recovery. Bonner’s leadership turned the institution of the local library into a true refuge.

Given the danger that libraries and librarians from Missouri to Mosul are now facing, ALA’s support for librarians under pressure is exemplary. Bonner apparently feels the same. On receiving notice of the award, he tweeted: “Every librarian is a superhero. Go to your library. They’ll teach you to fly!”

“Bonner will receive a cash prize and an object from Handler’s private collection,” the ALA announcement states.


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