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Chicago Public Library Welcomes Mary Ellen Messner as New First Deputy Commissioner

Chicago Public Library (CPL) today announced Mary Ellen Messner as the new First Deputy Commissioner.

Mary Ellen Messner will lead the organization’s strategic planning and organizational development, as well as manage the design and evaluation of CPL’s world class programs. Messner will also work closely with the Chicago Public Library Foundation and the city’s philanthropic community. She is replacing Andrea Saenz, who recently left the Library to become Chief Operating Officer of the Chicago Community Trust.
“Chicago Public Library is delighted to have such an experienced and nationally respected leader join our Administrative Team,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon. “Mary Ellen has dedicated her career to addressing the needs of Chicago’s children, youth, and families and we’re confident that her expertise and commitment will benefit the Library as we continue to offer quality, innovative programs to Chicagoans for years to come.”
For more than two decades, Messner has successfully designed programs and led policy initiatives to help young people achieve their full potential through workforce opportunities, afterschool initiatives, recreation activities and fine arts programs in Chicago’s not-for-profit and public sectors.
“The board and staff of the Library Foundation look forward to welcoming Mary Ellen to the team, and to working closely with her and our donors to continue the incredible trajectory of our private-public partnership and the nationally-recognized programs it makes possible, such as the Summer Learning Challenge, YOUmedia, CyberNavigators, and more,” said Tom Carroll, Interim President of the Chicago Public Library Foundation. “We are all very excited for the new ideas and energy Mary Ellen will bring to our work together on behalf of this city and the patrons of Chicago Public Library.”
Messner most recently served as Deputy Commissioner of Youth Services leading the City’s youth vision around summer employment, violence reduction initiatives, and out-of-school time. She directed a $48 million annual grant portfolio funding over 175 community-based organizations impacting over 100,000 youth annually.
Messner previously served as Director of Strategic Initiatives for Ingenuity Incorporated, where she developed strategies and advocacy efforts to support arts education in and out of schools, including co-designing the Chicago Public Schools Arts Education Plan. Prior to that, she was an Assistant Commissioner for the City, coordinating youth workforce initiatives including the City’s signature summer jobs program employing thousands of youth each summer. She began her public sector career at the Chicago Park District.
“Throughout her career in the public and nonprofit sectors Mary Ellen Messner has been an unwavering and highly effective champion for our city’s youth, working tirelessly to ensure they have access to the opportunities and resources needed to reach their potential,” said Roseanna Ander, Founding Executive Director of UChicago Crime Lab and Education Lab. “She played a vital role in designing, implementing and scaling One Summer Plus, which was evaluated by the Crime and Poverty Labs and has become the national model for summer youth employment programs focused on reducing violence. She represents the very best our city has to offer and I am thrilled to see her assume a leadership role with our city’s public library system where she can apply her creativity, intellect, vision and compassion to help Chicago Public Library stay at the national forefront of innovation and positive social impact.”
“Mary Ellen has been driving innovation in youth development and education for over two decades. Her work specifically in arts education has served as a national model for municipalities across the country, including here in Boston,” says Marinell Rousmaniere, Acting President and CEO of EdVestors, a school improvement organization that combines strategic philanthropy and educational expertise to assist schools in creating the conditions for change. “Her multi-sector approach to improving the lives of children, youth and families is centered on engaging critical stakeholders, including community leaders, youth and families. I’m confident her approach in leading the libraries will be equally as impressive, innovative, inclusive and forward thinking.”
Messner is a graduate of the Chicago Arts Leadership Initiative Institute (CAELI) and Menttium 100, a leadership and cross company mentoring program. She earned an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and a BA in Journalism from Marquette University. Messner is a member of Thrive Chicago, is active with the Chapin Hall Collaborative and the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership Youth Committee, and has served on several boards.
“I am humbled and honored for this tremendous opportunity to continue serving the residents of Chicago,” said Messner. “I look forward to working with the many talented, well-respected library leaders at CPL and to helping expand on the many accomplishments of Chicago Public Library in the years to come.”