Pictured above: A Little Free Library, located at Forest Park Individual Education, 1220 California Ave. in Joliet, IL.

by Yolanda Y. Harris | April 16, 2018

Residents on Joliet’s East Side don’t have a library branch. But thanks to Catherine Yanikoski Adamowski and a $2,500 Acting Up award from The Chicago Community Trust, East Side residents began accessing free books and information about various social services through “Little Free Libraries” last winter.

The approximately 6-foot-tall libraries, which stand as wooden boxes on top of wooden posts, are located on the outdoor grounds of 11 sites, including schools, park districts and recreational centers, on Joliet’s East Side. The 12th Little Free Library is expected to go up at the end of the year.

The Herald-News of Joliet reported that Catherine, deputy director at Joliet Public Library, used the Acting Up award to build the libraries. They were constructed by her father, Dick Yanikoski, who owns and operates Ferry Street Woodworks in Vevay, Ind. She also got a $500 donation from Joliet Noon Lions to purchase materials for the libraries.

Catherine said the libraries have been well-received by people in the community.

“They have been responding to them so positively,” she said.

People are retrieving materials from the wooden boxes and, although not required, they sometimes return books that they’ve read, she added.

Owners of the sites where the libraries are located maintain the libraries. Volunteers, mostly from the Kiwanis Club of Joliet, Joliet Noon Lions Club and Joliet School District 86, keep the libraries stocked with family-friendly reading materials and social service flyers and pamphlets.

Pictured above: Catherine Yanikoski Adamowski, a 2017 On the Table guest and Acting Up award recipient  

Catherine got the idea for creating the libraries after attending an On the Table hosted by the University of St. Francis in Joliet last spring. She was a guest at a table with representatives from the university, Joliet Area Community Hospice, Guardian Angel Home Health Care, Greater Joliet Area YMCA and other organizations. Her group discussion focused on advocacy and community awareness of social service agencies.

“I thought that from beginning to end, it was really valuable,” Catherine said. “I was very excited to be able to go to On the Table. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to hear everybody’s thoughts.”

One key takeaway from her On the Table experience was learning that so many organizations had the same challenge–conveying the availability of resources to the people who need them.

“There are so many resources available to people, but there are still so many people who don’t know about them,” she said. “How do you get that information out to people?”

For Catherine, the solution is to take the information to the people. Thus, the creation of the Little Free Libraries. The libraries cost about $3,500 to build, including labor and material.

“I was so appreciative of the opportunity to receive the Acting Up grant,” Catherine said, adding that she’s looking forward to participating as a guest again this year at the University of St. Francis’ On the Table.”

Pictured above: Catherine Yanikoski Adamowski and her father Dick Yanikoski pose in front of one of the 11 Little Free Libraries that Dick built on the East Side of Joliet, with the help of Catherine’s Acting Up award. This Little Free Library is located at the Hartman Recreation Center, 511 Collins Street in Joliet, IL.