February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Lemony Snicket Sponsors Prize for Librarians Facing Adversity

The Snicket Prize. Art by Seth.

The Snicket Prize. Art by Seth.

A day in the sun awaits long-suffering librarians: The American Library Association (ALA) has approved the new Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity, proposed and funded by the “Series of Unfortunate Events” author himself, Daniel Handler, who writes the series under the name of Lemony Snicket.

The prize is designed to honor “a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact,” according to the award proposal. ALA council gave the prize a thumbs-up at the ALA Midwinter Meeting held in Philadelphia from January 24-28, 2014.

The annual award—granted only if a suitable candidate is found—comes with a cash prize of $3,000 from Handler’s book earnings, plus an additional $1,000 for travel expenses. In addition, Handler, whose picture book The Dark earned him the Charlotte Zolotow Award, will provide the winner with “an odd, symbolic object from his private stash” and “a certificate, which may or may not be suitable for framing.”

“We’re all trying to envision what this certificate might be,” says Nanette Perez, program officer at ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), who worked to bring Snicket’s idea to the table.

“This seems like a better way to channel money to librarians than my previous strategy, which was incurring exorbitant late fees,” Handler says.

“Lemony had originally contacted ALSC (the Association for Library Services to Children) to establish an award to honor a children’s librarian,” Perez added. But “ALSC thought it would be better opened up to all librarians—not just children’s librarians who face adversity. They contacted the Office of Intellectual Freedom because usually when people think of adversity, they think of librarians facing challenged books.”

Discussing the proposal at ALA, “Everyone was very positive,” says Perez. Some of the responses: “You mean a famous author wants to recognize my work as a librarian? Yes, please!” “This is too fun to not pass up.” “I want to attend the awards ceremony every year now just to see what the ‘odd object’ is.”

The five-person awards jury will include one non-voting OIF representative and ALA members, including at least one from the youth divisions—ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children), AASL (American Association of School Librarians), YALSA (Young Adult Library Association)—and at least one from the IFC (Intellectual Freedom Committee) or the IFRT (Intellectual Freedom Round Table).

The deadline for applications is May 1, Perez says. The winner will be announced at ALA’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

“A bunch of people have already expressed interest on Twitter and Facebook,” Perez says. “Right now I’m scrambling to get it out on the Web site.”

ALA’s online application—ala.org/awardsgrant/lemonysnicket—will go live February 7.

Sarah Bayliss About Sarah Bayliss

Sarah Bayliss (sbayliss@mediasourceinc.com, @shbayliss) is associate editor, news and features, at School Library Journal.



  1. Hi! Just wanted to let you know that I caught a typo. In the second-to-last paragraph, I believe ““A bunch as people” should read “a bunch of people.”