For immediate release | May 2, 2017

Steven Woolfolk receives the 2017 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity

CHICAGO – Steven Woolfolk, Director of Programming and Marketing at the Kansas City Public Library, has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity. Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket, will present Woolfolk with the prize during the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference & Exhibition in Chicago, IL. Woolfolk will receive a cash prize and an object from Handler’s private collection.

On May 9, 2016, the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library hosted the inaugural presentation in the Truman and Israel Lecture Series co-presented by the library, the Truman Library Institute and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City. It was open to the public. All proceeded without incident until the question-and-answer portion, when audience member Jeremy Rothe-Kushel asked a question that was perceived to be provocative. When he attempted to follow up, he was grabbed by one of the private security guards and then by others in the private security detail, which included off-duty police officers. When Woolfolk attempted to intervene and protest the police action in defense of Rothe-Kushel’s basic First Amendment rights, he was arrested and charged with interfering with an arrest, suffering a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee from being kneed in the leg by an officer. The arrests resulted in a flurry of public discussion on the relationship between the library and its position as First Amendment defender.

“It was an incredibly brave thing for Mr. Woolfolk to do,” said Lemony Snicket jury chair Becca Worthington. “Without thought or hesitation, he heroically stood for one of the American Library Association’s most crucial tenants, which is the right to freedom of speech. Now more than ever, it is important to have people like Mr. Woolfolk in the public eye taking bold steps in support of the fact that libraries are places where all points of view are welcome.”

The Lemony Snicket jury recognizes that Steven Woolfolk has been the ultimate example of humility, integrity, and dignity in the face of adversity. “I am at once excited and humbled by this honor,” he said. “I would be delighted to accept the award on behalf of myself and everyone at the Kansas City Public Library and the larger library community who have supported me over the last year.”

“I have long relied on librarians to stand up for our essential rights of freedom and expression,” said Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). “Mr. Woolfolk’s commitment and gumption are inspiring to behold, and it is an honor to stand up for him in the form of an ovation.”

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. Woolfolk will be joining last year’s prize winner, Melanie Townsend Diggs, who was honored for her activism in Baltimore, Maryland, 2015 winner Scott Bonner, who was honored for his work in Ferguson, Missouri, and 2014 winner Laurence Copel, who was honored for her work in the Lower Ninth Ward Street Library of New Orleans.

The 2017 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity five-member jury included: Jury Chair Becca Worthington, ImaginOn children’s librarian, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Charlotte, North Carolina; Laurel M. Bliss, fine arts librarian, San Diego State University, San Diego, California; Susan H. Polos, Librarian, Bedford Central School District, Bedford, New York; Patricia Glass Schuman, past president of the American Library Association, Long Beach, New York; and Caroline Ward, youth service coordinator, Ferguson Library, Stamford, Connecticut.

The deadline for submission of applications for the 2018 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity is December 1. Guidelines and applications are available on the ALA website.


Cheryl Malden

Program Officer