Scott Bonner awarded the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity

For Immediate Release
Mon, 03/23/2015

Contact:

Cheryl Malden
Program Officer
Governance
312-280-3247

CHICAGO – Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Public Library in Missouri, has been selected as the recipient of the second annual Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity. Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket, will co-present Bonner with the prize with National Book Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson on Sunday, June 28 during the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco. Bonner will receive a cash prize and an object from Handler’s private collection.

On August 9, 2014, the shooting of unarmed teenager Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri set off a string of protests, demonstrations, riots, civil unrest, arson and violence. But in the middle of this climate of fear—where local disruptions caused businesses to board up their windows and delayed the start of the school year for the 12,000 youth in the Ferguson-Florissant School District— the Ferguson Public Library remained open and engaged, thanks to Bonner and the absolutely vital and tireless work of every member of his staff .

Located a couple of blocks away from the Ferguson Police Department, where armed militia were clashing with protestors, 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.  As the sole full-time librarian on staff—and someone who had started the position in July, mere weeks before the tragedy struck—Bonner’s ability to respond to the needs of his community with earnestness and immediacy demonstrates his leadership, personal courage, selflessness and dedication to public service. With no communications staff or media help, his efforts have received the attention of national press. “Under his leadership, a traumatic moment in our nation’s history was met with an outpouring of support,” said Jury Chair Dora Ho. “Through it all, Bonner served as a quiet hero, directing all media and social media attention toward highlighting the role of libraries and librarians as community hubs of support. We feel that he has been the ultimate example of humility, integrity, and dignity in the face of adversity.”

When the governor submitted an economic injury disaster declaration in the area, Bonner brought the Small Business Administration into the library to make low-interest loans and aid available to local Ferguson businesses. And when the library began receiving too many patrons and running too many programs to house, Bonner secured space at the church next door and kept on going. While buildings were being burnt down, he was building the community of Ferguson.

The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity was established in 2014 by the American Library Association in partnership with Daniel Handler. The prize, which is 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.  The prize is $10,000, a certificate and an odd, symbolic object.  Bonner will be joining last year’s prize winner, Laurence Copel, who was honored for her work in the Lower Ninth Ward Street Library of New Orleans.

The 2015 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity five-member jury included: Jury Chair Dora Ho, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles; Ann Crewdson, Issaquah Library, King County Library System; Seattle; Julius C. Jefferson Jr., Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; David Trudeau, Granville County Public Library, Granville County, North Carolina; and Becca Worthington, Association of American Publishers, New York.

For more information on the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity, including how to apply please visit ALA website.

Contact:
Nanette Perez
Program Officer
Office for Intellectual Freedom
(800) 545-2433 ext.4225
nperez@ala.org