When Elacsha Madison is in the Evanston Public Library, she usually can be found on the third floor, in a parent-free zone just for teens. Energetic, enthusiastic and full of projects aimed at engaging tweens and teens with books and culture, the 35-year-old Madison almost bubbles with optimism.
Madison, interim Innovation and Digital Learning Manager at the Evanston Public Library, was selected as one of 10 librarians in the country by the American Library Association to receive the coveted ‘I Love My Librarian’ award.
Madison’s nomination was chosen from 1,500 applications. A group of community members who know and have worked with Madison collaborated on the application that nominated her.
“Elacsha Madison is not just a librarian. She is first and foremost a community builder and friend to all she meets, and more than that, there’s nothing about this librarian that the community doesn’t love,” said one quote from Madison’s nomination letter as posted at the “I Love Libraries” website.
She has partnerships with people and organizations throughout Evanston, especially among Evanston’s schools and numerous nonprofits. She is constantly looking to find resources for her kids at EPL to serve their needs.
The Loft, the library’s space for tweens and teens, is a place where kids can be their authentic selves, and everything that is available to do there is free. That could include playing board games and video games, creating Cardboard Carnival games, sewing, using a drafting table for graphic design projects, making buttons, 3-D printing, growing vegetables using a hydroponic machine, reading books, coding original music, learning how to make movies and watching movies. Or simply hanging out with friends.
The service project Madison organized for Martin Luther King Day was to cut and sew reusable sanitary pads to send to girls in Africa who can’t afford to purchase them. Without the proper menstrual supplies during their periods, a situation known as “period poverty,” the girls miss about a week of school every month. The event was oversubscribed by girls and women of all ages, and several of the volunteers took additional supplies to continue making the pads at home. So far more than 100 pads have been sewn and there is interest in scheduling the event again.
A big focus this spring is supporting the Cardboard Carnival with workshops held at Robert Crown and the Main branch so kids are prepared for Showcase 2023, which takes place March 11 at Fleetwood-Jourdain.
In May, Madison stocks up the library’s bookmobile with an array of activities kids can do at The Loft. At each middle school, she sets up tables outside and lets kids see what’s available. She calls this “A Taste of The Loft.” The kids get to dabble, find new interests or hobbies and hopefully are inspired to stop by The Loft over the summer or in the fall. And no one leaves empty handed: everyone receives a book.
There is never a dull moment around Madison. With her high energy, creativity and a mix of common sense and street smarts, she said, “I am not everyone’s cup of tea. I’m a straight shooter with a lot of things, but I am dedicated and I show up. I want to make my life count. I want to make sure what I do really matters.”
Madison and EPL will receive separate plaques commemorating this honor. Additionally, Madison will travel to New Orleans next week to attend the ALA’s LibLearnX (Library Learning Experience) conference where she will receive her award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize.
All nominees must have a master’s degree from a program accredited by the ALA in library and information studies and be currently working at a public library, a library at an accredited college or a library at an accredited K-12 school, or have been working at one as of March 1, 2022.