JOLIET – What is that little wood house on Jefferson Street near Houbolt Avenue?
It’s a “Little Free Library,” part of a group of similar libraries associated with littlefreelibrary.org and a community outreach project of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet, 3401 W. Jefferson St., Joliet.
“It’s a way for the community to share its favorite stories with other readers,” said Chuck Teeter of Shorewood, a member of the church’s board of trustees.
Here’s how it works, Teeter said. Anyone may borrow or keep a book, as well as return and donate books. No one monitors it because the library works on the honor system.
The hope, he added, is that people will add as many books as they take, making the library an ever-renewing project.
“It’s really easy to access,” Teeter said. “It’s on the southern corner of the church building. Anyone going up and down Jefferson Street can just pull in.”
So far, Teeter said, the library’s three shelves contain about 70 books of adult fiction and nonfiction along with children’s titles, although the exact amount and categories of books will depend on what the community donates and returns.
“You never know what’s going to be in it,” Teeter said. “We’ve got paperbacks, hardcovers. The ‘Harry Potter’ books took up a lot of room, but someone has already taken most of those.”
Teeter said he and his wife Peggy had read about the project, which was started in 2009 by a Wisconsin man paying tribute to his mother and her love of reading. The concept interested both Teeter and his wife because they are former teachers who also love – and love to encourage – reading.
He said his family briefly considered adding a Little Free Library outside their house – many Little Free Libraries are in neighborhoods – but then rejected the idea because their neighborhood receives very little foot traffic, whereas the church gets plenty.
“When I went over to take a photo, a lady on a hike walked up, borrowed a book and said, ‘I’ll bring one back to replace it,’” Teeter said. “When I went back to restock it with more books, I noticed that some of them had been removed.”
The church board readily approved the idea, Teeter said, but then, many of the church members are “book gurus.” Another church member and woodworker, John Sternickle, built the library, and high school students helped him install it, Teeter said.
Church members donated the first supply of books, and there’s more in the church ready to go, Teeter said. The church’s Little Free Library is part of the official database at littlefreelibrary.org, too, so anyone visiting the site can find the Joliet location, he added.
Mostly, though, Teeter just wants the community to feel free to use and enjoy the library.
“There’s no three-week notice on returning the book,” Teeter said. “And if by some fluke you don’t return the book, that’s OK, too.”
For more information, call the Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet at 815-744-9020.