McChesney Named Recipient of ALSC’s 2021 Distinguished Service Award

For Immediate Release
Thu, 02/25/2021


Jordan Dubin

Awards Coordinator


Elizabeth (Liz) McChesney is the 2021 recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children’s (ALSC) Distinguished Service Award. This prestigious award honors an individual who has made significant contributions to library service to children and to ALSC.  

McChesney is the Outreach and Partnership Consultant for Laundry Literacy Coalition and the previous Director of Children’s Services and Family Engagement at Chicago Public Libraries. She serves as Senior Advisor to the Urban Libraries Council and as the Library Advisor to the National Summer Learning Association. 

She has worked with ALSC and the National Summer Learning Association to promote libraries during National Summer Learning Day. Liz was a member of the first ALSC Task Force on implementing Summer and Out of School Time Learning and since 2018 leads ALSC’s Task Force on Summer/Out of School Time Learning. In this role she is currently leading ALSC’s playbook development for Summer Learning which will be disseminated nationally in early 2021. 

“Liz” according to nominator, Laura Jenkins, “is a leader, an inspiration and a mentor to hundreds of children’s librarians and others within the sphere where libraries and children intersect. 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 practices and programs for children and families throughout Chicago Public Library which included materials in alternative formats, training for staff and the co-creation with The Autism Program of a customizable book for families to prepare their ASD child for a library visit, 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. Liz led the work of a citywide app for children and families on the spectrum as they visited libraries, the first to be added by a public library in the nation.  

Additionally, McChesney has contributed monumentally to the work of transforming summer reading programs to incorporate 21st Century Learning Skills. Driven by her motto “All learning counts,” she was able to greatly increase summer reading participation, including to underserved populations, through incorporating art, making, and STEM learning.  

McChesney 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 first time a library has won this award), the Library Journal Movers & Shakers Award and the John Cotton Dana Award for Marketing Excellence. 

As noted by ALSC Past-President Andrew Medlar: “I’m proud to have been Elizabeth’s colleague for over 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. 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. And 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.” 

ALSC is pleased to honor Elizabeth McChesney with the 2021 Distinguished Service Award.  

ALSC, a division of the ALA, is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries. To learn more about ALSC, visit ALSC’s website at 

The 2021 ALSC Professional Recognition and Scholarships Committee includes: Co-Chairs, Bina Williams, Bridgeport, CT and Megan Egbert, Meridian, ID; Kathleen Campana, Kent State University; Rachel Fryd, Philadelphia, PA; Robin Howe, Kent, WA; Kathy Jarombek, Old Greenwich, CT; Emily Mroczek, Naperville, IL; Elizabeth Saxton, Cleveland, OH; Kelsey Socha, Boston, MA;