9-year-old Spencer Collins not only likes to read but was eager to share his love of books with others. So, with the help of his father and grandfather, he built a “little free library,” a little wooden house (with windows and yellow trim on the roof) and a message to “Take a book, Leave a book.”
Spencer made the little library as a birthday present for his mother, who had said she wanted one and who, on seeing her handmade present in the front yard of their house in Leawood, Kansas, was thrilled.
But city authorities thought otherwise. Spencer and his family went on vacation in June and, on returning, found a note on the little library: Because it was a freestanding structure that was not attached to their house, the city said the little library was in violation of a long-standing ordinance and threatened the family with a fine.
Spencer put the little library into the garage and was only able to show it to visitors who’d been invited to see it.
Care2 member Joanna Mechlinkski was one of many outraged by Leawood outlawing Spencer’s little library and started a petition to tell the city not to shut it down. More than 22,000 Care2 members signed — and, early in July, Spencer and his family attended a Leawood City Council meeting at which it was unanimously decided to allow “little free libraries.”
Standing on a milk crate, Spencer himself presented his case for his little library to the Leawood City Council, saying:
“I want you to allow little free libraries because I love to read. Lots of people in the neighborhood used the library, and the books were always changing. I think it’s good for Leawood.”
There’s still work to be done to make sure that anyone in Leawood can have a little free library and share their love of books. The Leawood City Council has passed a temporary moratorium exempting little lending libraries from the ordinance that bans structures in front yards but this will only last until October 20. The Council is considering a new ordinance that would allow front-yard libraries and other containers that are specifically to be used to share books or other media.
Some residents have raised objections, asking why there’s a need for little libraries like Spencer’s when there are already local libraries supported with public funds. As one Leawood resident counters, the little libraries are a way to foster community because: “Reading is a solitary endeavor, but this makes it about community. It is about neighbors reaching out to neighbors.”
I don’t know about your community, but hours for the local library in the towns I’ve lived in (on both the East Coast and the West Coast) have been drastically cut back. It’s become all too common to hear about libraries closing and having their budgets cut.
It’s more important than ever to show you care about libraries and, in our technophilic age, to cheer on efforts (and by a 9-year-old) to promote books and reading. Many thanks to all of you Care2 members who, like Joanna Mechlinkski, take action, start a petition and stand up for a cause you care about!
Photo via Chris Radcliffe/Flickr