Join Colson Whitehead, Rebecca Makkai, Richard Hunt, and Bob Wislow on November 1 to celebrate the power of public libraries.

This November, the Chicago Public Library Foundation Awards returns for its 23rd year, in celebration of the Chicago Public Library’s 150-year legacy of serving Chicagoans through community-building and access to information while highlighting the crucial role that libraries play in activating minds.

All Chicagoans are invited to join us for a free online broadcast of the awards ceremony at 6 PM on Wednesday, November 1. The ceremony can be viewed at, and no advance ticket is required.

The evening will be hosted by legendary Chicago newscaster Bill Kurtis, and feature appearances from our honorees: local literary rising star Rebecca Makkai, world-renowned sculptor Richard Hunt, civic leader Bob Wislow, and internationally recognized author Colson Whitehead, who will be interviewed by best-selling author and National Public Radio (NPR) host Scott Simon. 

Colson Whitehead. Courtesy Chris Close.

Whitehead will be presented with the 2023 Carl Sandburg Award, which was created in 2000 to recognize esteemed authors. Born in 1969, the Harvard educated writer’s 2016 historical novel The Underground Railroad reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and won a Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Carnegie Medal for Fiction. Whitehead’s next novel, 2019’s The Nickel Boys, also brought home the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, making him one of only four authors to have won the prestigious award for two consecutive books.  

Rebecca Makkai. Courtesy Brett Simison.

Makkai will receive the 21st Century Award, which honors significant recent achievements by a creator with ties to Chicago. The Lake Bluff native’s 2018 novel The Great Believers, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. It also won the ALA Carnegie Medal, the Stonewall Book Award, the Clark Prize, and the LA Times Book Prize, among others and was named among New York Times’ “Ten Best Books of 2018. Makkai’s latest novel, I Have Some Questions For You, was released in February to national acclaim.

Richard Hunt. Courtesy of the artist. Photographer: Chester Higgins.

The Arts Award, which celebrates the power and impact of the city’s artistic community, will be presented to Chicago native Richard Hunt. Over his seven-decade career, the artist has become the most prolific sculptor in American public art. He’s created more than 150 commissioned works, which can be seen in 24 states. Last year, the Obama Foundation commissioned Hunt to make a new sculpture for the Obama Presidential Center. 

Bob Wislow. Courtesy Bob Wislow.

The Library Foundation will present the Civic Award to Parkside Realty founder Bob Wislow in recognition of his extraordinary leadership and commitment to the Chicago Public Library Foundation and celebrated local institutions, including Rush University, The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

At a time when book bans, disinformation, and other challenges are on the rise, the Library Foundation invites Chicagoans to support public libraries in providing access to programs, resources, and safe spaces—a mission that the Chicago Public Library has been leading for the past 150 years. 

“What an honor to be an innovation partner to the Chicago Public Library, finding bold ways to reach Chicagoans of all ages,” said Brenda Langstraat Bui, president & CEO of the Chicago Public Library Foundation. “Thanks to our partnership, we are able to meet library users wherever they are in their learning journey with a full range of resources from free homework help to leadership development programs for our teens, and digital literacy support for adults.” 

Last October, more than 12,000 library lovers worldwide tuned in to the 2022 CPLF Awards and donated a total of $1.5 million to advance the Library Foundation’s three investment priorities: closing the academic opportunity gap, activating creativity and connection for all, and bridging the digital divide.

The 2023 Chicago Library Foundation Awards are presented by BMO. Mayor Brandon Johnson and First Lady Stacie Johnson, Governor JB Pritzker and First Lady MK Pritzker, and Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias and Jo Terlato Giannoulias are honorary chairs.

Watch the Awards at Donations at every level to the Library Foundation Awards support free lifelong learning programs and resources for all at the Chicago Public Library. 

This content sponsored by The Chicago Public Library Foundation