June 18, 2018

Roberta Koscielski | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Advocates

Roberta Koscielski


Deputy Director, Peoria Public Library, IL


MLIS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1982


Presidential Volunteer Service Award, presented by President George W. Bush, 2007


Peoria Public Library: Mayor’s Community Coalition Against Heroin; Peoria Reads!; DontShootPeoria.com

Photo by Mitchell A. Rose


Conversation Catalyst

Roberta Koscielski has a long history with the Peoria Public Library (PPL)—and with Common Place Family Learning Center, a community education nonprofit on Peoria’s south side, where she trained as an adult literacy tutor and eventually joined the board. That early connection set the tone for her entire 34-year library career.

In 2012, Peoria city mayor and the county state’s attorney asked Koscielski to help lead a new approach to reducing gang violence in the city, using David Kennedy’s book Don’t Shoot: One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America (Bloomsbury USA) for Peoria Reads! (a one-book, one-city program PPL cofounded with Common Place in 2001) as a catalyst for community conversation. The Don’t Shoot project became a successful cornerstone of Peoria’s antiviolence efforts. Now, the Peoria Police Department holds “Call Ins” at PPL, in-person after-hours meetings with gang members, while their families receive support services in separate meetings. In 2016, Peoria Reads! took on the skyrocketing opiate addiction issue, again collaborating with local government. It featured Sam Quinones’s Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (Bloomsbury). “The more I personally learned about the heroin and opioid epidemic, the more I was motivated to increase awareness,” says Koscielski, who extended the Dreamland project beyond the normal Peoria Reads! audience and time line to include community forums, a health practitioner symposium, a “one-book” project at a local high school, and presentations at a 55-and-older learning institute. The latter programs reached two demographics significantly impacted by the opiate crisis: teens and elders.

According to Koscielski, libraries are a “place to learn about issues, discuss them together, and work on solutions.” She calls them “thinkingspaces.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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  1. This is just an awesome article!!
    Congrats to Roberta for all that she does to promote literacy in Peoria!

  2. Wayne Cannon says:

    It is great to see you get the recognition you deserve! It was a pleasure working with you in a few of the many projects you have chosen to take on.

  3. I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving than this recognition than Roberta!

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