A 9-year-old in Leawood, Kansas was told by city officials that the “little free library” he set up in his yard to share books with his neighborhood friends had to be removed. Spencer Collins loves to read and wanted to share his passion with the other kids in the neighborhood. The free library stand he had in his front yard was no bigger than a garbage can, and consisted of a small bookshelf with see-through doors and a small roof to protect the books in the rain. Spencer’s library had a motto: “Take a book, leave a book.” He was very proud of his communal bookshelf, until he received a notice from the city ordering that the little free library be removed. The city is calling the bookshelf an unauthorized accessory building.
Sarah Collins, Spencer’s mom, said, “When we got home from vacation, there was a letter from the city of Leawood saying that it was in code violation and it needed to be down by the 19th or we would receive a citation.” The family moved the little library into the garage, but Spencer Collins has been doing some advanced reading the past couple of days. Spencer has been brushing up on the Leawood city municipal code, and he plans to fight the ban of his little library. Spencer plans to bring the matter up before city council.
The city has an ordinance against buildings that are not attached to the home. Unfortunately for Spencer and his little library, two people complained about the outdoor communal bookshelf. KMBC reports that the city is just following procedure. “We empathize with them, but we still have to follow the rules,” Richard Coleman of the City of Leawood reportedly said. “We need to treat everybody the same. So, we can’t say if somebody files a complaint but we like the little libraries — we think they’re cute — so we ignore it. We can’t do that.”
KMBC contacted surrounding Kansas cities and asked them if they would consider a little free library an illegal accessory building. Haley Harrison reported that several of the cities have such little libraries. Neighboring Prairie Village officials said that the city would never interpret the code to restrict little free libraries like Spencer’s. Across the nation, people are standing up to city ordinances that don’t make sense to them. A Michigan woman was recently found in contempt of court when she refused to remove animals from her small family farm, citing Michigan’s Right To Farm Act. Spencer plans to either change the law or find a way around it so that he can get his little free library’s books back into circulation as quickly as possible.
Spencer said that he’s reading the code in detail so that he can figure out a loophole that will keep his little library active while staying within the letter of the law. He considered attaching a rope from his library to the house, because it would make it “attached.” The Collins have set up a Facebook page devoted to preserving his tiny library. Jill Graves Rodgers, a middle school librarian showed her support to Spencer’s little free library. “You go, Spencer,” she said, ” I think the LFLs are one of the greatest inventions ever! I hope you are able to get some changes made in your city.”
Spencer’s situation is making big waves and bringing public awareness to the new trend of little free libraries. His story was shared with Reading Rainbow. To learn more about the “Little Free Library” trend catching the nation’s attention, readers can check out LittleFreeLibrary.org.
[Photo via Spencer’s Little Free Library]