Books can spark inspiration and
independence. However, many
individuals, especially children,
have limited access to books. In
fact, studies show that 61% of
low-income households have no
children’s books at home.
That’s why Open Books’ book grant
programs create libraries in schools
and nonprofit centers, support literacy
events in the community, and give
books to students to keep and share with their families.
Who We Are
We’re an energetic, enterprising, and just slightly eccentric group. Get to know us!
Thirtysomething years ago, Stacy learned to read. This life-changing experience led to degrees in law and literature, allowed her to help take three startup companies from idea through a combined total of $30 million in committed venture funding, and finally inspired her to start Open Books in her basement in 2006. She is delighted to have received an Emerging Leader Fellowship from the Chicago Community Trust, a place on NewCity's Lit 50 List, the Social Enterprise Alliance's Innovation award, and recognition on the White House's official blog for "spreading the infinite and awesome power of books," but is most proud just to be part of the incredible things that the team, students, volunteers, and supporters of Open Books make happen every day.
Stacy writes a novel every year, eats ice cream every day, and is always starting something. And, yes: her hair really is green.
Natalie has spent most of her career dedicated to improving educational outcomes for underserved students. Her time with NewSchools Venture Fund and the Illinois Network of Charter Schools offered insight into the urgent need to transform K-12 public education. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in Economics. Natalie currently serves as the Board Chairperson of Lighthouse Academies and as a Wish Granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois. She reads Jane Eyre annually from one of her many prized copies of the book, and her favorite living authors include Ann Patchett and Richard Russo.
Anna Piepmeyer has spent her career helping students realize their potential as readers, writers, and thinkers, and she couldn't be happier to work at Open Books, where she gets to do her two favorite things: 1) talk about books, and 2) get students from across Chicago excited about talking about books. Anna holds a B.A. from the University of Utah (her home state!) and a master's degree from the University of Chicago. Outside of work, Anna serves as a Community Member on her neighborhood school's LSC.
After several years of test driving regions throughout the US, Jessica is ready to come back home to where it all began. She first started her traveling adventures by heading to the west coast where she attended Stanford University to study Sociology. Then she trekked to the east coast to teach middle school Literacy, high school English and Healthy Relationships workshops throughout Philadelphia. Now that she’s tried the rest, she is ready for the best of what Chicago has to offer. Throughout these long distance moves she has discovered three loves of her life 1) yoga 2) Mr. Pickles and Luna (her two dogs) and 3) anything written by Virginia Woolf.
Cary was born and raised in Chicago and is happy to have found her home at Open Books, slowly weaseling her way in to the Open Books family -- first as a VWrite mentor, then as an Associate Board member, and finally as a staff member. She holds a BA in Elementary Education from Augustana College and a Masters Degree in literacy from DePaul University. She loves to travel, is obsessed with all things Irish, and is always starting up some new hobby or project. She also loves to read, but please don’t ask her what her favorite book is -- it’s just too hard to pick!
Mike joined Open Books in September 2013 and brought the organization he’d headed for 9 years, Book Worm Angels, with him. Mike brings a wide range of business and nonprofit experience to the party, including stints as the first ad sales manager of The Weather Channel, Advertising Director of the Sherwin-Williams Company, and, with his wife, Jean, starting a pioneering concept in staffing with their national company, Paladin -- placing marketing and advertising executives into contract positions. Mike is an active cyclist, night school graduate from a college in Cleveland that’s been swallowed up by two other larger universities (from back when the word "smart" didn’t refer to phones…or automobiles), proud dad of three wonderful children, grandpa to two awesome junior hockey players, committed friend to literacy, and President of the Chicago Literacy Alliance -- there go the nights and weekends.
Kevin began his reading life at two years old when his father would read him his favorite book before bedtime. When his father was particularly tired and would skip words, Kevin insisted upon re-reading the story in its entirety. This enthusiasm and care for the written word and the people who read it carries him through his days. On most of these days, you can find him in the Open Books Store, locating the perfect book for you. Other days, he is probably wandering Chicago in search of decent conversation, hidden culinary gems and the perfect addition to his record collection. He has worked as a library page, printer, research assistant and event coordinator. He also once worked in a clothing factory where he organized jeans in order by size for eight hours a day, so he knows something or other about numbers too.
Lizzy started as a volunteer in the Open Books store when it opened in November 2009. Stealthily worming her way into deeper involvement with them ever since, she now proudly claims the title of Bookstore Assistant Manager. Lizzy graduated from DePaul University with a degree in history in 2009. She wrote her honors thesis on llamas, and can discourse at length upon them. Did you know that llamas run a secret cabal that rules the earth? Lizzy can tell you about it (though she may have to kill you)! Her favorite authors are too many to name, but she collects Neil Gaiman memorabilia. In a shocking twist of fate, she got a tattoo of an open book on her foot in 2008; thus, it is proven that her involvement with Open Books was meant to be. The book remains untitled because her favorite book changes so often... and tattoos hurt. Lizzy is attempting (and currently failing) to learn to play the banjo. Most importantly, Lizzy loves reading more than any other thing (even breathing!) and is incredibly lucky to discuss books with Open Books customers all day!
Alice started out as a volunteer at the Open Books Bookstore, and was thrilled to be offered a position as a staff member. Alice has lived most of her life in Chicago, with brief sojourns to Texas and California when she was a toddler and Boston when she was a college student. In between dodging crazed Red Sox fans and even more crazed trolleys she managed to earn a degree in Linguistics, so if you say hello to her in a foreign language she may understand you. After a lifetime of reading science fiction and fantasy she has recently discovered the joys of non-fiction, so recommendations in either vein are most welcome! Her current contenders for the title of Favorite Book are Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog and Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union.
Dominic started with Open Books as a volunteer at the bookstore and the warehouse. He's always called Chicago home even when he attended The University of Iowa, where he earned a B.A. in Communication Studies (and once kissed Gwendolyn Brooks on the cheek). One of Dominic's favorite book rereading experiences was finishing Something Wicked This Way Comes at dusk in October while in Ray Bradbury's hometown of Waukegan, Il. He and his wife are the proud owners of Trudy, a harlequin lop bunny named after detective Adrian Monk's wife.
Aaron recently graduated from the extremely dirty world of industrial manufacturing. He previously attended Purdue University, where he graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He lived and worked in Belgium for a time, but couldn't learn to enjoy warm Coke Cola. As a result, he returned to the U.S. of A to dedicate his life to kindness.
Christina began volunteering at Open Books in the summer of 2011 and she’s thrilled to have infiltrated the staff. She graduated from Roosevelt University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and enjoys having a good rant whenever correlation is confused with causation or whenever writers lie about how the brain works. Her passion for reading and writing manifested early in life. As a toddler she would scribble neat rows of gibberish next to her drawings and wander the house crying, “I want to read!” Once she did become literate, her love of the written word only became stronger. Although she is trying to read more stories set in the real world (or at least constrained by real-world physics), she prefers plots that feature zombies, time travel, or screwball comedy (ideally all three). In her spare time she writes fiction that she refuses to share with anyone.
Mary was born in Texas, raised in New York, schooled in Vermont, lost (briefly) in Idaho and eventually ended up here, in Chicago, where she studied English Literature for a long time. One day she'd like to teach high school English. When she's not working at the Open Books Warehouse, she can be found sitting on her porch looking into the Open Books Warehouse. Aside from creepin' on the warehouse folks, she enjoys reading (!), taking pictures, cooking and petting other people's dogs.
Howard is a native Chicagoan and graduate of Shimer College, where he received a B.A. in Humanities. After spending a year studying abroad in Oxford, England, he realized that academia was not the place for him and began volunteering at Open Books and Literacy Chicago to learn from and to serve disadvantaged and underprivileged communities. Because of this intent to learn and serve, Howard's reading material is primarily non-fiction - favorite topics of personal study include second- and third-wave feminism, German idealism, 19th- and 20th- Chinese history, sociology, Christianity, and Buddhism. When not reading, Howard plays music (guitar and bass) and is a proud and unabashed metalhead.
Born and raised in Japan, Denise has been in Chicago for about thirteen years after living on both coasts and the Lake District in the UK. She loves cooking, reading, and reading about cooking and eating food in other countries, as well as Chicago. Much of the time she feels more Japanese than she does American and still encounters things about this country that surprise her. Nevertheless, onward and upward!
Dustin comes to Open Books as a graduate of Columbia College, where he majored in Marketing Communications and minored in Product Design. Dustin spent much of his time growing up volunteering with numerous organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters, PADS, and Students of Service. He is an outdoor enthusiast as well as an avid cyclist who enjoys spending his time camping and kayaking.
Nell grew up in New York City and recently graduated from Yale University with a degree in American Studies. She is passionate about creative education and the Chicago literacy movement and has taught kids about books, improv comedy, and the visual arts. She has lived in a hilltop apartment in Tuscany, a bright orange basement and (for one beautiful night) a Hindu monastery in West Virginia. Nell loves jokes and Faulkner.
Erica is delighted to add Open Books to the eclectic list of positions where she has garnered work (and life!) experience. Equipped with a degree in Spanish Literature and Language from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she's been a bilingual 2nd grade classroom teacher, an elementary and middle school Spanish instructor, and is now proud to call Open Books home. She has a passion for crafty projects, loves a good pun, prefers public transportation to finding parking, and wonders why "quite a few" and "quite a lot" mean the same thing.
Noah grew up in a family of readers, and quickly developed his father’s unfortunate habit of purchasing and keeping many more books than he could possibly consume in a lifetime. Born in Toronto, he moved to Chicago in 2000, and has been here ever since. A fiction writer as well as book critic, Noah’s work has appeared in The A.V. Club, Paste Magazine, and TimeOut Chicago. He’s currently the Board President of the Chicago Writers Conference, a local non-profit that works to help writers on the path to publication. Noah received his MA and BA from the University of Chicago, focusing on Creative Writing and Philosophy. When at home, he can usually be found on the couch with his dog, David Bowie the Chow Chow.
David finished college in a year that begins with a two. He spent most of the previous decade as a health insurance actuary in Lake Forest, and the rest of the decade not being an actuary.
When not at the store, he can be found avoiding sunlight and ingesting various cold forms of caffeine. At the risk of sounding like the most generic person on the planet -- he's only ninth, since he's under 60 and knows how to play bridge -- he enjoys books, movies, music, word puzzles, games of all sorts, and the occasional animated or odd TV show. His favorite film is Miller’s Crossing, his favorite flavor of Slurpee is banana, and he has the high score on the Ms. Pac-Man machine closest to his apartment. David startles easily if approached in the wild, but if you remain motionless, you might induce him to eat a cheeseburger right out of your hand.
Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Jessica moved to Chicago to pursue her dreams of making art with great people in freezing weather. Joining the Open Books family as a ReadThenWrite Teaching Artist has definitely helped to make those dreams come true. Jessica holds a degree in Theatre from Bowling Green State University and spent the last several years teaching improvisation and sketch comedy writing to people of all ages. When Jessica is not at Open Books, you can find her drinking tea, catching up on TV series that she should have watched 15 years ago (why aren't people still talking about Ally McBeal?!), playing cards, and bopping around the city searching for a great cafe to read in.
Ashley has come to Chicago from the great state of Kansas. She just graduated from the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk!) with a BA in Applied Behavioral Science with a concentration in Early Childhood Education & Intervention. Ashley teaches Pre-K and absolutely loves working with the little ones. She is so excited to be here at Open Books surrounded by fellow book lovers and literacy supporters. In her free time Ashley is trying not to get lost while exploring the city, reading copious amounts, knitting, and being an Applied Behavioral Science research nerd. Her two favorite books are The Odyssey by Homer and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.
Mike comes from a home where every room is a library. Surprisingly, his parents never really forced books into his hands during his formative years - they just assumed he’d someday become curious about the eye-catching spines adding color to the otherwise-pallid walls surrounding him. They were right. As an expectant father of a literature degree from North Park University, Mike plans to use the words he’s learned from books to create sentences that make people want to read more sentences, although he’s not yet sure as to whether these sentences will be adorning the pages of epic novels or cereal boxes. In his free time Mike likes to over-analyze all forms of media (including cereal boxes), listen to others’ over-analyses of all forms of media (which have yet to include cereal boxes), and attempt the USA Today daily crossword puzzle without cheating.
Maggie just finished her junior year at Saint Louis University, where she majors in English and minors in French and theology. She can most likely be found on campus either in the newsroom, where she works on the arts desk of The University News, or in a local coffeeshop, reading or typing away. She loves to spend her time around books in whatever way possible, and she’s excited to share her love of reading and writing with students as a literacy intern with Open Books this summer. The farther future is unsure, so Maggie is happy to focus on the present and give her all to exploring the written work with the youth of her favorite city and hometown, Chicago.
Meredyth is a rising sophomore at Hamilton College in New York, where she plans on majoring in Sociology with a minor in Education. She is ecstatic to be able to spend her summer in Chicago, her hometown. She loves dancing, singing, reading, cooking badly, and watching college commencement speeches online, because who doesn’t love some good ol’ motivational speeches every once in a while?
What We've Done
In the short time since our founding, Open Books has made a difference in thousands of lives.
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