Celebrate great stories in a year full of plot twists.

Each year, the Chicago Public Library Foundation honors the artists who bring great stories to life—those who challenge us, inspire us, and help us see the world in ways we never knew possible. On Wednesday, December 9 at 6:30 p.m. CST every Library lover is invited to tune in via livestream for the very first virtual Chicago Public Library Foundation Awards celebration.

Legendary Chicago newscaster Bill Kurtis will join us once again as our host, and the evening’s centerpiece will be an intimate conversation with our Sandburg Award honoree led by best-selling author and National Public Radio host Scott Simon.

Register now, and enter to win a collection of Donna LaPietra, Nate Marshall, and Isabel Wilkerson’s book picks!

Your support of the Chicago Public Library Foundation Awards empowers Chicagoans of all ages who rely on our Library for access to vital information, services, and lifelong learning resources.

No ticket is required. Sponsorship packages and gifts at all levels are welcome.

If you are having trouble viewing the broadcast through our website, please use this link to view directly in YouTube.

We want to know what you thought about the production. Please share your feedback here.

View Library Foundation Awards highlights in our special digital book. 


Join us as a sponsor to receive special event benefits and recognition to share with friends and family. Your gift is an investment in digital infrastructure and virtual programming to meet Chicagoans where they are.


Invite friends and family to help you reach your fundraising goal and join you for our live broadcast! Your support delivers educational programs and resources that help Chicagoans achieve success in school and in life.


Give directly and support technology investments that help bridge the digital divide in communities with the greatest need.

Donna LaPietra
Inaugural Civic Award

The Civic Award celebrates the leaders whose work significantly contributes to the strength and vitality of our great city. There are few Chicagoans more deserving of this inaugural award. As one of Chicago’s most energetic and creative civic leaders, Donna LaPietra is in a class of her own when it comes to telling stories that capture the imagination.

A longtime television producer and Emmy Award winner, LaPietra was instrumental in the creation of Millennium Park as Chairman of the Millennium Park Foundation Board;  is active on the boards of several civic organizations, including the Library Foundation, Navy Pier, the Joffrey Ballet, Steppenwolf, Chicago Botanic Garden, and a number of women's and auxiliary boards and committees. As the executive producer of Kurtis Productions, LaPietra has lent her creative expertise in pro bono work with a host of nonprofits. Donna is also an avid gardener and land conservationist, having created both a formal garden and natural prairie in the northern suburbs of Chicago that is featured in The Garden Conservancy Directory.

What’s on Donna’s bookshelf?

Nate Marshall
21st Century Award

An admired fixture in Chicago’s literary scene with his star rising worldwide, Nate Marshall is an author, poet, playwright, performer, educator, and rapper. Born and raised on the South Side, he is also the proud grandson of a Chicago Public Library librarian who he recalls always “put books in my hands.” His first book, Wild Hundreds, was the Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s Poetry Book of the Year and received The Great Lakes College Association’s New Writer Award. The Chicago Tribune calls his new book, FINNA, “full of precision and exuberance, elegance and rollicking good humor.”

Among his many roles, Marshall is an assistant professor of English at Colorado College and an editor of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. He co-wrote the play No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks with Dr. Eve L. Ewing, the Library Foundation’s 21st Century Award winner in 2019. He and Ewing also co-direct Crescendo Literary, a partnership that develops community-engaged arts events and educational resources as a form of cultural organizing.

Isabel Wilkerson
Carl Sandburg Literary Award

Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents and The Warmth of Other Suns. Her thoughtful, lyrical, and deeply-researched work provides insights into America’s history and the divides that linger today—and opens new possibilities for moving forward. Her new book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, was published in August 2020 to critical acclaim, with Dwight Garner of The New York Times calling it “an instant American classic” and Oprah choosing it for her monthly book club pick.

The Library Foundation will present the coveted Carl Sandburg Literary Award to an author whose work was also featured as part of the Library’s city-wide One Book, One Chicago program, with Wilkerson’s debut book, The Warm of Other Suns, being the 2013/14 selection. It went on to win the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Award for Nonfiction, the Lynton History Prize from Harvard and Columbia universities, the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize, and was shortlisted for both the Pen-Galbraith Literary Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

Featured Friendraisers

Top Friendraisers

Honorary Chairs

The Honorable Lori E. Lightfoot Mayor of Chicago,
First Lady Amy Eshleman


The Block & Malkin Families
Leslie Bluhm
Marcy & Greg Carlin
David R. Casper
Crown Family Philanthropies
Linda & Richard Filler
Jacqueline Griesdorn & Kevin Matzke
Suren Gupta
Carlette McMullan & John Gibbons
Cindy F. Pritzker
Michael J. Sacks
Leo Sheridan
Laurence Szumski
Susan & Bob Wislow
Suzanne Yoon
Helen Zell

Patron Sponsors

Wendy A. Berger, Carol Lavin Bernick, Angela & Geoffrey Euston, Jennifer Friedes & Steven C. Florsheim, Bette Cerf Hill & Bruce Sagan, Leslie S. Hindman, ITW, Jones Day, KPMG LLP, In Memory of Barbara Lewis, Microsoft, PNC, Mary Lee Schneider & Edward Flam, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, TAWANI Foundation, Wintrust Chicago’s Bank

Premier Supporters

Spark Cremin & PaulDykstra, Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation, Denise & Adam Hoeflich, Carol & Larry Levy, Linda Johnson Rice, Segal Family Foundation, Sheila Owens

Premier Individual Sponsors

Chicago Crypto Capital LLC, Clarity Partners, Clayco, fairlife, LLC, Ingram Content Group, Brenda Langstraat & VeBui, U.S. Cellular Corporation 

Individual Sponsors

Alka & Ajay Gupta Foundation, Bernstein Private Wealth Management, Cathcart Family Foundation, Ice Miller LLP, Katz & Stefani, LLC, Miller Shakman Levine & Feldman LLP, Reynolds Family Foundation, Richard & Elizabeth Uihlein, Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Frequently Asked Questions

Follow Us