Mary Dempsey Latest Illinois Library Luminary

April 24, 2015


Mary Dempsey was appointed Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library (CPL) in 1994 by Mayor Richard M. Daley and reappointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011.  She served the City of Chicago in that role for nearly two decades until her retirement in 2012.  Words cannot fully express Mary's passion and commitment to public service and public libraries.  She is a visionary leader, mentor and dedicated advocate for libraries.

Under her direction, 44 new libraries were constructed in Chicago, 13 of which are LEED certified; all libraries were equipped with state of the art technology including free computers and WiFi, access to the Internet and research databases, rich book collections, innovative reading and learning initiatives like One Book, One ChicagoYOUmediaTeacher in the LibraryMoney Smart, author talks, and early literacy programs for ages 0 - 5.  Two strategic plans for CPL were created and implemented under her direction.

With the Chicago Public Library Foundation, Mary raised the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards to national prominence.  Through her outreach with the Foundation, CPL developed many partners including the Gates Library Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, McCormick Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, Kraft Foods, Target Corporation, Bank of America, Com Ed, People's Gas, Federal Reserve Bank, Chicago Humanities Festival, Printers Row Book Festival, Chicago Park District, Archdiocese of Chicago Schools, and Chicago Public Schools to develop and present educational programs and services that continue to enhance lifelong learning and quality of life for all Chicagoans.

ILA Library Luminaries are nominated and approved by the ILA Executive Board and recognized with financial contributions of at least $1,000 in their honor to the ILA Endowment.  For a complete list of luminaries, please click here. 

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