Arlington Heights librarian wins top national award

  • Maria Papanastassiou

    Maria Papanastassiou

Updated 12/13/2019 6:18 AM

An Arlington Heights librarian is one of 10 national honorees recognized this week for her service to the public.

Maria Papanastassiou, the Kids' World assistant manager at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, was announced as a recipient of the I Love My Librarian Award from the American Library Association.


She was nominated by colleagues, who wrote in their nomination form that because of Papanastassiou's work and dedication, "families with diverse needs have found a home" at the library.

Among the ways they say she's made the library more accessible to children with special needs and their families, Papanastassiou has led playgroups for children with Down syndrome, Cerebral palsy, sensory processing disorder and language delays. The groups can include a picnic blanket with pretend food to facilitate imaginative play, a circus tent for children needing a low-sensory environment, steppingstones to practice gross motor skills, felt characters with story boards to encourage language expansion, make-your-own unicorn crafts for fine motor development, or insta-snow for sensory exploration.

She also developed "Our Time: Caregivers, Coffee and Play," meetups that connect parents and caregivers with developmental therapists in an informal setting.

And she instituted "Early Open for Families," allowing children with special needs to experience library exhibits in a quiet setting before the library opens its doors to the general public.

Papanastassiou has led the library's partnership with C.I.T.Y. of Support, a nonprofit that provides assistance to families with children in therapy.

Nearly 2,000 nominations were received from the public nationwide this year leading to the 10 winners, chosen by an American Library Association committee. Each winner gets a $5,000 cash prize, plaque and travel stipend to attend an awards ceremony on Jan. 25 in Philadelphia.

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