March 27, 2015

Scott Bonner, Ferguson Library Director, will receive the ALA Lemony Snicket Prize


Ferguson Municipal Library via Wikimedia Commons

Ferguson Municipal Library via Wikimedia Commons

Scott Bonner is not only the director of the Ferguson Municipal Public Library, but in December, he was the only full-time employee. He kept the library open during a tough week so students, teachers, and other community members would have a space to gather. Their resilience inspired an incredible number of donations, and this week Bonner was awarded the Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity by the American Library Association.

In interviews, like this great recent one with Publishers Weekly, Bonner says the Ferguson Library was no different than any other library:

In the end, what the media caught in Ferguson was just libraries being libraries. I appreciate the heck out of people saying you’re doing a great job, and every time I hear it I want to say thank you. At the same time, I think librarians that have dealt with things like Hurricane Katrina, or with earthquakes, and that kind of stuff, they have done a lot more than what we’re doing. We’re just being a library. We’re doing community-focused programming, and that is just normal stuff. That we became such a big story is a testament to, for one the contrast between Ferguson’s image in the media and what the library was doing, but also to how little some in the media know about libraries, right? A lot of reporters were like “you’re doing what? I’ve never heard of such a thing!” But this is what libraries all over country do every day.

Nobody throws around the word “heck” like Bonner. When he was asked what the Ferguson Municipal Library needed, he suggested hiring more staff might be a nice thing. (He’s since been able to create a permanent position for a full-time children’s librarian.)

Authors Daniel Handler and Jacqueline Woodson will present Bonner with the award in an official ceremony on June 28. He’ll also receive $10,000.

Dora Ho, the Jury Chair of the award, said of Bonner, “Under his leadership, a traumatic moment in our nation’s history was met with an outpouring of support. Through it all, Bonner served as a quiet hero, directing all media and social media attention toward highlighting the role of libraries and librarians as community hubs of support. We feel that he has been the ultimate example of humility, integrity, and dignity in the face of adversity.”

Congratulations, Scott Bonner!


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.