Target: Leawood, Kansas Mayor Peggy Dunn
Goal: Don’t forbid resident from having a Little Free Library in his front yard
The Little Free Library project is a campaign to encourage reading and sharing books through the erection of small cabinets or bookshelves in public spaces where community members can leave a book of their own and take a new one that catches their eye. This project allows those with limited resources in areas without big public libraries to access a variety of books, and it has inspired many young people across the country and the globe to share their love of literature with their fellow residents. So there was more cause for celebration when nine-year-old Spencer Collins of Leawood, Kansas, who loves adventure stories, recently decided to make a Little Free Library as a Mother’s Day surprise, enlisting the help of his father and grandfather to construct a cabinet to be housed in their front yard. Spencer finished it off with a handmade sign reading “Take a book, leave a book,” and the end result delighted his mother Sarah.
However, after the family returned from a vacation hoping to see a new crop of books, they instead found a letter from the city informing the family that they would be fined if the Little Free Library was not taken down soon. Now the cabinet has been relegated to the garage, only accessible to invited visitors. The city’s action was in accordance with a local law prohibiting accessory structures: as the director of community development, Richard Coleman, told Fox4KC, “It applies to any structure, so we aren’t targeting the little libraries. You couldn’t put a bookcase out there, or a couch out there, or any items like that.” The city has applied the law as it is written, but to the clear detriment of community activities and education. This incident is yet another example of cities enforcing the letter of the law where perhaps the spirit of the law should have prevailed; clearly the ordinance against accessory structures was not meant to prohibit community learning structures like Spencer’s library. Therefore, the city council should either reconsider the prohibition of the Little Free Library or change the law to allow structures intended for the benefit of the community.
By signing this petition, you are calling on the Leawood City Council to revisit the issue of Spencer’s Little Free Library. You are urging them to allow Spencer’s library to remain open or to change the law to permit accessory structures that exist to foster education and a sense of community.
Dear Mayor Dunn and the Leawood City Council,
I am highly disappointed in the way the City of Leawood has pursued the matter of Spencer Collins’s Little Free Library. The Little Free Library project is meant to foster a sense of community and an environment conducive to enjoyable learning, with its focus on sharing and give-and-take. These are important lessons for every citizen to learn, and Spencer was acting out of his desire to share his love of literature with his fellow residents. Leawood’s ordinance prohibiting accessory structures should not apply to structures meant to enhance and support the community.
I urge you to acknowledge that this is a case in which the letter of the law has prevailed over the spirit of the law. I call on you to change the ordinance to allow structures like Little Free Libraries and community-based structures that clearly foster, rather than detract from, a sense of community involvement and pride.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: John Phelan via Wikimedia Commons