The Association for Library Service to Children has named Elizabeth McChesney the 2021 recipient of its Distinguished Service Award. This honor recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to library service to children and to the ALSC.
McChesney currently serves as the outreach and partnership consultant for the LaundryCares Foundation and is the former director of children’s services and family engagement at Chicago Public Libraries. She also is the senior advisor to the Urban Libraries Council and the library advisor to the National Summer Learning Association.
McChesney has worked with the ALSC and the National Summer Learning Association to promote libraries during National Summer Learning Day. In addition, she was a member of the first ALSC task force on implementing summer and out of school time learning and, since 2018, leads the ALSC’s task force on summer/out of school time learning. In this role, she is currently leading the ALSC’s playbook development for summer learning.
“Liz is a leader, an inspiration and a mentor to hundreds of children’s librarians and others within the sphere where libraries and children intersect,” said Laura Jenkins, who nominated McChesney for this award. “But the truly outstanding quality that makes Liz stand out from other inspiring leaders is that, while she may be in front, she is never alone. Liz has mastered working cooperatively with others – individuals and institutions – so that not only children but also partners reap the benefit of her creativity and dedication.”
Known for pioneering inclusive practices, McChesney spearheaded multiple programs for children and families throughout Chicago Public Libraries. This work included materials in alternative formats, training for staff and the co-creation with The Autism Program to help families prepare their ASD children for a library visit – as well as early childhood programming for visually impaired, hearing impaired and autistic children; STEM programming for school-age children on the autism spectrum; in-house sensory kits; and outreach to community organizations serving children who are differently abled.
McChesney also has authored two books through ALA Editions – “Summer Matters: Making All Learning Count” (2017) and “Pairing STEAM with Stories” (2020). She has been recognized through the National Summer Learning Association’s Excellence Award, the Library Journal Movers & Shakers Award and the John Cotton Dana Award for Marketing Excellence.
“I’m proud to have been Elizabeth’s colleague for more than two decades and to have witnessed first-hand how her vision, skill, wisdom, determination and leadership have bettered the careers of hundreds of librarians and the lives of millions of children,” noted ALSC Past President Andrew Medlar. “She never stops dreaming, planning and working to ensure all children have access to learning at their neighborhood library, and she is truly an industry trailblazer in creativity and collaboration.
“Throughout all of the incredible accomplishments and immense impact of her career so far, Elizabeth has never lost the heart of a children’s librarian or her deep passion for bringing kids and books together. It is a joy to see her nurture learning, drive outcomes for all children but especially those in need, and nurture and support the field of librarians.”