Denise Neujahr

Teen Youth Services Specialist for the Community Library Network in northern Idaho

Denise Neujahr

About

Denise Neujahr, Teen Youth Services Specialist for the Community Library Network in northern Idaho, has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity. Daniel Handler, also known as Lemony Snicket, will present Neujahr with the award—a cash prize and an object from Handler’s private collection—during the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference & Exhibition on Sunday, June 25, 2023, in Chicago, IL.

There has been no shortage of high-profile challenges to serving LGBTQ+ teens in libraries across the United States. As a Young Adult Librarian for the Community Library Network, Denise has spent her career providing a supportive environment for young adults. In 2019, she implemented the Rainbow Squad program to provide a safe space for an increasing number of young adults who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and their allies, to interact with each other, engage in activities, and exist in a space free from fear of being “othered” by individuals who have proven to be unkind to people identifying at LGBTQ+. This program continued virtually throughout the pandemic.

A small but vocal group in north Idaho began politicizing the library network’s Rainbow Squad programs in the spring of 2021. Ire amplified by this politicization increased to the point when in June of 2022, Denise was targeted by the “Panhandle Patriots,” a militia-oriented motorcycle club based in northern Idaho. They received her personal information through a public records request and commenced a personal attack on Denise that included printed posters and a social media campaign that labeled her as a “groomer” and claimed that she was indoctrinating youth with an LGBTQ+ agenda.

Denise was undeterred. She persevered through protests, threats, and armed disruptions from individuals in the community who were looking to challenge the safe space she worked so hard to create. Working with law enforcement and library administration, Denise made sure these young adults were protected. One armed protester at a Rainbow Squad event was arrested for not complying with law enforcement instructions to stay away from program participants. At the Pride in the Park event, where the library partnered with other community groups, thirty-one members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front, who were dressed and outfitted in tactical gear, were arrested for intending to riot before they could disrupt the event.

Awards Won

Title Year
Art by Seth The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity

It is of the opinion of Lemony Snicket, author, reader, and alleged malcontent, that librarians have suffered enough. Therefore he is establishing an annual prize honoring a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact. The prize will be a generous amount of cash from Mr. Snicket's disreputable gains, along with an odd, symbolic object from his private stash, and a certificate, which may or may not be suitable for framing. It is Mr. Snicket's hope, and the ALA's, that the Snicket Prize will remind readers everywhere of the joyous importance of librarians and the trouble that is all too frequently unleashed upon them.

2023 - Winner(s)