Stories are powerful. They change, encourage, and inspire. On October 10, Carl Sandburg Literary Award Honoree, George R.R. Martin, and 21st Century Award Winner, Dr. Eve L. Ewing, joined 87 guest authors and more than 950 civic & corporate leaders to echo a story that resonates with us all: Chicago Public Library empowers Chicagoans and transforms communities.
What does a critically acclaimed author, a CEO, a mayor, and a nine-year-old have in common? They have all personally felt the impact of Chicago Public Library. “Going to the Library meant being transported to a world beyond my circumstances. It’s given me the opportunity to learn, to imagine, and to dream. The Library embodies the values of equity and inclusion,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
For one night, the Library’s most ardent champions and advocates gathered to raise more than $2.2 million in celebration of everything that the Library stands for−access, equity, and opportunity for every Chicagoan.
“We put teachers in the library for free after-school tutoring because we know hundreds of thousands of kids don’t have access to after-school help. We developed the Summer Learning Challenge that keeps kids engaged all summer. We utilize today’s technological advances in all our branches and teach people how to access it. We created the YOUmedia program because we know teens need to find their passions and safe havens to gather.” – Jennifer Friedes, 2019 Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner Chair
A Toast to our Honorees
The Dinner opened with the legendary Chicago newscaster and master of ceremonies, Bill Kurtis, leading the much-anticipated author parade, with each writer gracing center stage. “What an honor to join so many distinguished authors for the great cause of supporting Chicago Public Library−an institution so close to my heart,” shares Rita Dragonette, a guest author, and award-winning public relations executive.
The highlight of the event was presenting the Carl Sandburg Literary Award to an outstanding author’s contribution to the literary community. This year, the honor is given to one of the world’s most masterful storytellers, George R.R. Martin. Best known for his epic novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire that inspired the most popular show in the world, Game of Thrones, Mr. Martin is no stranger to Chicago. He earned both his B.S. and M.S. degrees in journalism from Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. Mr. Martin is also an avid supporter of public libraries.
“Growing up in the small town of Bayonne, New Jersey, we didn’t have much. Fortunately, there was the library. I read every science fiction book there was to read. The library allowed me to go beyond the small world I lived in.” – George R.R. Martin
The 21st Century Award celebrates significant achievements by an author with ties to Chicago. Poet, educator, and sociologist, Dr. Eve L. Ewing, is this year’s winner. A self-proclaimed child of Chicago Public Library, Dr. Ewing’s personal and creative identities are shaped by her experiences within the Library’s walls. In her gripping speech, she spoke about the revolutionary role the Library plays.
“The Library says ‘come here, come learn, sit, rest. Come read.’ In a time of marginalization, the Library is a radical space because when the world says ‘we don’t want you here’ the Library says to so many what it has always said to me ‘Welcome home.’ ”
A Conversation with Fantasy’s Reigning King
Making the Dinner more special is an animated conversation between NPR’s Scott Simon and Mr. Martin. And what a discussion it was! Affable, candid, and with an ever-infectious laugh, Mr. Martin gamely answered questions about writing his first book at age 6, his freshman year at Northwestern as the inspiration for the Wall of Westeros, being a gardener-writer (“I plant my idea and water it with blood, sweat, and tears”), and his nuanced characters as a reflection of the reality of humankind. Watch their full conversation here.
Throughout the evening, guests also shared library stories and engaged in lively dinner conversations with esteemed authors from different genres−architecture, fiction, food, photography, sports, theatre, and others. Attendees included past 21st Century Award recipients Rich Cohen, Elizabeth Crane, Eric Charles May, Natalie Moore, Erika Sánchez. Scott Turow, recipient of the 2018 Carl Sandburg Literary Award. Other notable authors in attendance were Lee Bey, Thomas Maier, Kate Moore, Ron Rapoport, Pete Souza, Luis Alberto Urrea among others. Relive this special evening here.
Coming together for the Greater Good
For the past 30 years, the Chicago Public Library Foundation and Chicago Public Library have tirelessly worked together to advance literacy and equity for all Chicagoans. “The work between the Library and the Foundation is a movement and a model for what can happen when we all come together with unwavering focus on the greater good,” said Brenda Langstraat, Library Foundation President.
Commissioner Andrea Telli echoes this sentiment wholeheartedly. “The partnership between the Library and the Library Foundation is a relationship based on aligned mission, a love of this city, and a commitment to lifelong learning.”
The Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner is the epitome of this synergy−leaders from civic, corporate, and individuals united to strengthen the power of the Library and in turn, empowering communities across all 77 neighborhoods.
The Story Continues
Stories are powerful and Chicago Public Library is a catalyst for some of the most compelling narratives− of children excited to learn, of teens realizing their potential, of men and women searching for a better future, of older citizens learning to navigate the digital world, of families creating memories, and communities coming together. First Lady Amy Eshleman couldn’t have summarized it better, “The Library is an anchor of literacy, democracy, and equity in every neighborhood.”
The Library shapes stories of progress and impact for every Chicagoan, regardless of race, class, or zip code. With the tremendous success of the 2019 Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner and with your support, the people behind the stories will thrive to meet their great potential.
The Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner is the major fundraising event of the Chicago Public Library Foundation. We extend a heartfelt thank you to our generous sponsors, BMO Harris Bank, Jennifer Friedes & Steven C. Florsheim, Susan & Robert A. Wislow, Rolex, Advanced Resources, FCB Chicago, Carol & Larry Levy, Peoples Gas, and Zell Family Foundation.