ALA announces winner of the first-ever Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity

For Immediate Release
Mon, 06/09/2014


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations


CHICAGO – Laurence Copel, youth outreach librarian and founder of the Lower Ninth Ward Street Library, New Orleans, is the first recipient of the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity. Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket, will present Copel with the prize on June 29 during the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas. Copel will receive a cash prize along with an odd, symbolic object from Handler’s private collection. 
“Copel is recognized for her extraordinary efforts to provide books to young readers of the Ninth Ward,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “Copel is a brilliant example of how librarians can serve as change agents. Her leadership and commitment show the vital role that librarians and libraries play in energizing and engaging the communities that they serve.” 
Copel who moved from New York City to New Orleans in 2010 saw a need to provide age appropriate books to neighborhood youths.  Known to the children in the Lower Ninth Ward as the “Book Lady,” Copel opened a library in her home through self-funding and small donations while living on $350 a week.  She also converted her bicycle to a mobile book carrier allowing her to reach children and families that could not travel to her home. 
In her efforts to serve her young readers she has had to overcome much adversity, including a burglary and significant weather damage to her home that destroyed many of the books she planned to give to children, limited financial resources and empty promises of assistance from local politicians. Despite local challenges, Copel has provided more than 7,000 books to children in need.
Undeterred by adversity, Copel has demonstrated remarkable dedication and perseverance to the cause of youth literacy and, in the process, ingenuity and spunk.  Though overwhelmed and undermanned, she has refused to relent.  Instead she has demonstrated a remarkable resilience and commitment to her cause.  She has organized two parades with the help of the children of the Ninth Ward (complete with a marching band and float) to distribute books. When she found out that the cost of the police-issued permit and escort for the parades amounted to hundreds of dollars, funds she did not have, she sold homemade soaps and raffle tickets. 
“What especially struck me is that Copel is dealing not just with an adverse incident, but with continuing pervasive adversity,” said Award Chair Eric Suess. “She has dedicated so much of her time and personal resources, as well as her tremendous affection for the children of the Ninth Ward. My hope is that she will continue to fight to place books in the hands of young readers.”
The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity was established in 2014 by the American Library Association in partnership with Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket.   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 honoree will receive a $3,000 check, $1,000 travel expenses, a certificate and an odd object from Handler’s private collection.  
The 2014 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity five member jury included: Jury Chair Eric Suess, director, Marshall Public Library, Pocatello, Idaho; Donna Baretta, Mildred E Strang Middle School, Brookfield, Conn.; Ernie Cox, Prairie Creek Intermediate School, Iowa City; Dora Ho, Los Angeles Public Library; and Julius C. Jefferson Jr., Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
More information on the Lemony Snicket Prize For Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity please visit