by Alison Flood)
Librarians have suffered enough", according to Lemony Snicket, who is setting up a new annual US prize "honouring a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact".
Snicket, the pen name of American author Daniel Handler, is the chronicler of the "travails" of orphans Violet, Klaus and Sonny in the multi-million-selling A Series of Unfortunate Events books. He is, he said in his announcement, often "falsely accused of crimes and sought by his enemies as well as the police", and he believes that, "in much the same spirit, librarians have suffered enough" and thus deserve to be rewarded.
Together with the American Library Association, he is therefore setting up a new $3,000 (£1,800) award, The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity. "The Snicket prize will remind readers everywhere of the joyous importance of librarians and the trouble that is all too frequently unleashed upon them," said Snicket, who is funding the prize from his own "disreputable gains".
"This seems like a better way to channel money to librarians than my previous strategy, which was incurring exorbitant late fees," said the author. The winner will also receive "an odd, symbolic object" from Snicket's "private stash", he said, "as well as a certificate, which may or may not be suitable for framing".
One way in which librarians have been challenged in the US over the last year is through attempts to ban books: late in 2013, the Kids' Right to Read Project reported 49 censorship attempts in 29 states, a 53% increase in activity on 2012. "It has been a sprint since the beginning of the school year," said spokesperson Acacia O'Connor at the time. "We would settle one issue and wake up the next morning to find out another book was on the chopping block."
One incident involved a vote to ban Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower from middle-school classroom libraries. With support from Judy Blume, and two months of negotiations, the book was reinstated.
In 2006, the Katy Intermediate School District in Texas placed Snicket's books in "restricted use" – meaning children were not allowed to check out any of his work from school libraries. Snicket's books, which have won numerous children's awards and been nominated for such prizes as the Children's Choice and Nickelodeon Kids' Choice awards, was restricted on grounds of excessive "violence and horror".
Snicket's new Noble Librarians prize will be judged by members of the American Library Association, including at least one member from its Intellectual Freedom Committee. Candidates – who must describe an "adverse incident" they faced and "their response, result and resources utilised" – need to be nominated by 1 May this year.
School Library Journal hailed the news as "a day in the sun" for "long-suffering librarians".