A boy and his little library: free and legal


A boy and his books

Spencer Collins of Leawood, Kansas, likes books. Lots of them. “It’s kind of like I’m in a whole other world and I like that,” he said. “I like adventure stories because I’m in the adventure and it’s fun.”

He became the protagonist in an adventure story of his own when he tried to start a little free library on Mother’s Day, May 11 – you know, the kind that are springing up all over the country, often no bigger than a country mailbox or a bird feeder. It was a gift from his grandfather, and they built it together. The boy stocked it with such classics as Madeleine L’EngleA Wrinkle in Time and Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

The city didn’t like it. When the family returned from vacation, notification of a code violation was waiting in the mail. If it wasn’t taken down by the 19th, the family would receive a citation.

City officials said the little house is an “accessory structure,” and the city bans buildings that aren’t attached to someone’s home. The city had received two complaints. Go figure.  People don’t have anything better to do.  “We empathize with them [the family, that is – ED.], but we still have to follow the rules,” said Richard Coleman of the City of Leawood. “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.” The family closed the library.

Daily Kos picked up the story here and complained: “Only in Kansas would someone complain about a little free library. I guess book-learnin’ is too librul.” (The Book Haven does not know the political content of Spencer’s books, if any.) Then the writer added, “Anyway, Kansas City area Kossacks, let’s help Spencer out and get his little free library back out in his yard.”



Spencer thought of getting a rope and tethering the library to the house. Voilà!  Same “structure.” But we live in the technological era. So he set up a Facebook page instead, called “Spencer’s Little Free Library.”  The page currently has nearly 32,000 “likes.”  The Collins family decided to fight city hall.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Star picked up the story. In an editorial protesting Leawood’s acton, the Star wrote:

Mayor Peggy Dunn said she has put the topic at the top of the agenda of the July 7 City Council meeting. That’s appropriate. Lending libraries have become Leawood’s hottest topic since media reports about the forced removal of one family’s front-yard structure went viral this week.

“I’m hoping there might be some resolution that we can come up with,” Dunn said.

The rest of the nation followed suit – Spencer even got a spot on NPR. He argued his case before the authorities, standing on a milk crate to reach the podium. Reprieve! The Leawood City Council unanimously approved a temporary moratorium last week that exempts the little lending libraries from a city ordinance that prohibits structures in front yards. The moratorium will last until October 20. That’s short term. The council also discussed changing the ordinance to allow front-yard libraries. It could take two or three months to amend the ordinance as the city goes through the required public hearings before the council can adopt it.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article590071.html#storylink=cpy

According to a July 9 Facebook post: “Spencer’s Library is back out and open for business. Spencer assembled a new bench for the library. Many people have donated books, the two pictured here were given to Spencer by the author at the city council meeting. After we are done reading them they will be put into the library.”

Life is good. For now.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article590071.html#storylink=cpy


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