Martha Hickson

Martha Hickson

Martha Hickson headshot


Martha Hickson, media specialist at North Hunterdon High School in Annandale, New Jersey, has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity.

There has been no shortage of high-profile censorship challenges infesting school libraries across the United States since students returned from pandemic confinement in the Fall of 2021, but it was a fight that Hickson had already been fighting, tooth and nail. In fact, she has persevered through several book challenges since she began as a high school librarian in 2005. In 2021, however, the battle reached a new peak.

When a community group attended the Board of Education (BOE) meeting and demanded that two award-winning books with LGBTQ+ themes—Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison (and later three additional LGBTQ+ titles)—be pulled from the library shelves, their allegations not only attacked the books but Hickson herself, labeling her by name as a pornographer and pedophile for providing children with access to the titles in question. In the following weeks, she endured personal attacks from the community, hate mail, threats, nuisance vandalism, and even questions about her judgment and integrity from her administration. In fact, the open adversity became so pervasive and extreme that her blood pressure and anxiety rose to the dangerous point where her physician removed her from her workplace.

Despite this adversity, however, Hickson persisted and persevered in her unwavering defense of her students’ right to intellectual freedom and right to read, including galvanizing a group of community allies to attend the BOE meetings, gathering testimonies from LGBTQ+ students, recruiting local author David Levithan to write a statement of support, and even consulting and offering advice on censorship battles to the library community at large. At the January BOE meeting, the resolution to ban the five books in question was effectively voted down, and all challenged books remain proudly on the North Hunterdon High School library shelf.

The Lemony Snicket award was created to acknowledge the work of librarians who have gone above and beyond the normal requirements of librarianship to stand up in the face of adversity with dignity and honor, and to recognize the significant sacrifices and contributions that librarians make to improve the quality of life and their communities. "It is with uncensored delight that I salute the work of Martha Hickson, whose feisty and fearless defense of self-expression has made all books, all authors, and all readers more safe, and more interesting" said, Lemony Snicket.

“The jury is very proud to honor Ms. Hickson for her energy and bravery in the face of such persistent and ongoing hostility,” said Lemony Snicket jury chair Becca Worthington. “In the midst of adversity, she has remained a firm advocate for first amendment rights and a proud defender of her students' right to read, and the jury is thrilled to celebrate her triumphant spirit.”

In response to receiving the award, Hickson said, “For school librarians across the country, this year of book challenges and personal attacks has truly been a series of unfortunate events worthy of the title The Lambasted Library. I am both humbled and grateful to accept the Lemony Snicket Prize on behalf of librarians everywhere who steadfastly defend the right to read.”

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.

2022 - Winner(s)