ALA Fund Available for Librarians Fighting Censorship; 'Olivia' Author Ian Falconer Dies; and More | News Bites

The American Library Association offers a special fund for librarians whose jobs have been threatened or lost because they have fought against censorship; 'Olivia' author Ian Falconer dies at 63; Ezra Jack Keats Awards announced; and more in this edition of News Bites.

The American Library Association offers a special fund for librarians whose jobs have been threatened or lost because they have fought against censorship; 'Olivia' author Ian Falconer dies at 63; Ezra Jack Keats Awards announced; and more in this edition of News Bites.

LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund available for librarians

Librarians across the country are fighting for intellectual freedom and to keep control over collection development. The American Library Association has a fund that can help those whose employment has been lost or threatened for standing up against censorship.

The LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund is devoted to the “support, maintenance, medical care, and welfare” of librarians who are:

  • Denied employment rights because of defense of intellectual freedom; that is, threatened with loss of employment or discharged because of their stand for the cause of intellectual freedom, including promotion of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, the freedom of librarians to select items for their collections from all the world’s written and recorded information, and defense of privacy rights.
  • Denied employment rights or discriminated against on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, color, creed, religion, age, disability, or place of national origin

Applications for assistance and identities of grant recipients are confidential. Applications can be emailed to or mailed to Trustees, LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund, 225 Michigan Ave, Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60601.

For more information, email

"Olivia" Author Ian Falconer dies at 63

Author and illustrator Ian Falconer, best known for his “Olivia” series about an energetic, talkative, and headstrong young pig, died on March 7 at age 63.

Falconer was a theater costume  set designer and illustrator who landed 30 New Yorker covers. His original “Olivia” title—Olivia at Christmas—was a gift for his niece in 1996. A couple of years later, he showed it to editor Anne Schwartz, then at Simon & Schuster. The first book, Olivia, published in 2000, was a 2001 Caldecott Honor title. It launched the book series and eventually an animated series.

Ezra Jack Keats Awards announced

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, in partnership with the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi, announced the winners of the 2023 Ezra Jack Keats Award, which “celebrates exceptional early career authors and illustrators for portraying the multicultural nature of our world in the spirit of Ezra Jack Keats.”

The winner of the Writer award is Kari Percival for How to Say Hello to a Worm.

The winner for Illustrator is 2023 Caldecott winner Doug Salati for Hot Dog.

The Writer Honors went to Pauline David-Sax for Everything in Its Place and Juliana Perdomo for Sometimes All I Need is Me.

The Illustrator Honors are Chioma Ebinama for Emile and the Field and Zahra Marwan for Where Butterflies Fill the Sky.

NCAC accepting applications for Student Advocates for Speech 

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is now accepting applications for Student Advocates for Speech (SAS), a project for high school students for the 2023–24 school year. This is the second year of the program, which is an advocacy project of NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Program.

NCAC assists SAS student leaders ages 14 to 18 in creating school clubs that teach about the importance of free speech and advocate for their rights and those of others facing censorship. SAS students will receive advocacy training and mentorship from free speech experts, educators, and best-selling authors, as well as organize events for Banned Book Week, the National Day of Writing, and Student Press Freedom Day, and have the chance to speak at national events and publish op-eds in local and national press.

The deadline for applications is May 5, 2023. 

We Need Diverse Books Internship grants available

Applications are open for the 2023 We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) Internship grants. In its ninth program year, WNDB will award $3,000 to a minimum of 24 diverse interns focused on adult and children’s publishing.

Since 2015, the Internship Grant program has supported over 100 grantees in their summer internships. More than 75 percent of the grantees (excluding the 2022 interns who are still participating in the program) have gone on to work in the industry. Linda Sue Park, honorary chair of the WNDB Children’s Internship Grant Committee, said the organization hopes the program continues to grow and “make books the portal to a world of equity and inclusion.”

The application period ends April 30. 

HMH launches award for teachers

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has launched the inaugural HMH Lighthouse Awards for teachers who have made “an extraordinary impact on the lives of students, colleagues, and communities.”.

These awards, presented in partnership with Steve Pemberton, author of The Lighthouse Effect, and Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, a “human lighthouse” featured in Pemberton’s book, are inspired by the book, which is a collection of true stories of ordinary people, “human lighthouses,” who made extraordinary impacts in the world.

Ten teachers will be awarded the HMH Lighthouse Award and win a variety of prizes including a visit from Steve Pemberton and Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, one of the lighthouses in Pemberton’s book, at their school next year, and an all-expense paid trip to the 2023 Model Schools Conference June 25-28 in Orlando, FL.


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