By: Sharon Aron Baron
For her heroism in shielding 50 students and five adults in an equipment room during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting, Diana Haneski, Library Media Specialist has been selected as a recipient of the 2018 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity.
She joins Yvonne Cech, Library Director of the Brookfield Library in Brookfield, CT, who protected 18 fourth grade children and three staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity was established in 2014 by the American Library Association in partnership with Daniel Handler and his wife Lisa Brown. The prize, which is co-administered by ALA’s Governance Office and the Office for Intellectual Freedom, annually recognizes and honors a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact. The prize is $10,000, a certificate and an odd, symbolic object.
Both Haneski and Cech will receive a $10,000 cash prize and an object from Handler’s private collection during the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans.
On December 14, 2012, 18 fourth grade children and three staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School were herded into a storage closet by Cech, then a library media specialist at the school. She locked the door and barricaded it with book trucks and other available objects until the SWAT team arrived. She would not open the door until she verified the officers’ identity.
Five years later, during the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Haneski remembered her friend Cech’s quick thinking and advice, and acted accordingly. She shielded 50 high school students and five adults from harm in a large, barricaded equipment room. As Cech had done, she refused to open the door until she was certain the rescuers were who they claimed to be.
Both librarians have been interviewed extensively by the media about their experiences, allowing them to describe in their own voices and words the events, their reactions, and their hope that what Cech calls a “teachable moment” will be a turning point. The Lemony Snicket prize will help Cech and Haneski expand their campaign and dedication to ensuring atrocities such as those in Newtown, CT, and Parkland, FL, will not continue. Haneski has asked, “how can we make this the last one?”
“Reading about the bravery and compassion of these two amazing women was a moving experience for everyone on the jury.” said Lemony Snicket jury chair Laurel Bliss. “We were inspired by how they are transforming tragedy into action, by speaking out against gun violence and advocating for laws to change.”
Haneski and Cech will be joining last year’s prize winner, Steven Woolfolk, who was honored for his work in Kansas City, 2016 winner Melanie Townsend Diggs, who was honored for her work in Baltimore, Maryland, 2015 winner Scott Bonner, who was honored for his work in Ferguson, Missouri, and 2014 winner Laurence Copel, who was honored for her work in the Lower Ninth Ward Street Library of New Orleans.
The 2018 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity five member jury included: Jury Chair Laurel Bliss, fine arts librarian, San Diego State University, San Diego, California; Maricela Leon-Barrera, early learning coordinator, San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, California; Ellen Ruffin, curator and associate professor, The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Ann Symons, past ALA President; and Angela A. Williams, librarian, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.