Laurence Copel, the intrepid librarian who pioneered a community-based children’s library in her Lower 9th Ward home, recently got her just desserts when she received the inaugural Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity at the American Library Association convention in Las Vegas.
Known as “The Book Lady,” Copel competed for the award against 77 similarly beleaguered librarians. Her entry mimicked the writing style of children’s author Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, citing a series of unfortunate events that nearly prevented her from hosting a 2013 book parade for kids through the streets of the Lower Ninth Ward. Copel described bureaucratic red tape, exorbitant police protection fees and inclement weather as obstacles that threatened the launch of her 2013 Krewe of Ex Libris parade.
Handler, author of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” said the reason for the award is that “librarians have suffered enough.” His annual prize will honor a librarian who has “faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact.”
Before an audience of 1,300 librarians, publishers and book advocates, Handler and New Orleans author and illustrator Mo Willems presented “an odd, symbolic object,” a hand-painted platter showing Copel aboard her front-loading tricycle piled high with the children’s books she distributes free throughout her neighborhood.
The ALA flew the librarian and her 18-year-old son Kazumi Yamazaki to Las Vegas to accept the prize, which came with a $3,000 cash award. First Book, an organization that donates books to low-income children promised her library 1,000 books of her choice.
Copel returned home to post, “I am coming back home with not only an amazing collection for my community but my cup of hope and light refilled that people deeply care and will help me continue this project,” on the Lower 9th Ward Street Library Facebook Page.
Donations can be made to the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, 5130 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA 70117 attention: Street Library; or online at sustainthenine.org.