(Photo Credit TAMMY LJUNGBLAD/THE KANSAS CITY STAR)
Leawood, a small town in Kansas, has certainly poked the hornet’s nest. I can all but guarantee you they had no idea what they were getting themselves in to when they ordered the Collins family to remove their 9 year old son, Spencer Collins’ Little Free Library.
The story is all over the news sites, and you can read more there but basically it boils down to this:
Spencer Collins is an avid reader so he and his family set up a Little Free Library on the edge of their property to encourage book sharing in their neighborhood. They go out of town and when they return, there is a notice from the city that the neighbors have complained about this “Free Standing Structure” on the front lawn that must be removed right away lest the Collins’ face a citation under the city ordinance 16.4-2-2. The family removed the structure, because, yes, the letter of the law says they can’t have this library.
Before removing the structure, they contacted Mayor Peggy Dunn’s office to basically say,”Hey, can our son keep his library? Hundreds of other cities are cool with these, and Leawood probably should be as well.” Well, Mayor Dunn passes it on down the line to the City Administrator Scott Lambers who responds in a ridiculous way that clearly indicates he has NO clue what the hell a Little Free Library is really all about. He suggested contacting the local library to see if they would let the family place the Little Free Library there. Seriously.
So, rather than get all pissy and declare the world is coming to an end and “Eff these Bureaucrats! This country is going to hell! Don’t these people have anything better to do with their time?!” the family is being cool as shit and teaching their son how to be a decent human person and how to make a change in the world, and this is where the rest of us come in. The family has organized a facebook page to communicate what’s going on and there is a fantastic set of resources already compiled on the “About” page for this campaign. I mean really fantastic. Comprehensive. It tells you all the ways you can get involved. The path I personally have chosen is to contact the Mayor and each member of the city council directly via email.
Here is my letter to Mayor Peggy Dunn. Please feel free to copy, make it your own and send it to her before the City Council meets to discuss this issue at their next meeting on July 7.
I am not a constituent of yours, so I understand if you do not respond, but I wanted to take the time to write to you regarding the question of Little Free Libraries in your community.
I live in Seattle, WA which is known as one of the most literate cities in the country. We have well over a hundred Little Free Libraries in our city, in neighborhoods of every socioeconomic range.
Even in our somewhat liberal, tech-money, hyper-literate city, our libraries have faced deep cuts to funding during the long economic recovery, cutting hours of operation shorter and eliminating whole days of operation to stay on budget. I do not live in your community, but I would be surprised if you didn’t have similar stories about your public service funding issues.
Allowing private citizens like young Spencer Collins to build and place these Little Free Library structures allows books and ideas to continue to circulate in your community without costing the city a single dollar more in resources. It allows older citizens access to entertainment on their own block without concerns for transportation, it encourages neighbors to interact with one another in an increasingly detached society, and most of all, allowing this particular Little Free Library to stand in your community, will teach one of your young citizens how to participate in his local government in a meaningful way. It will show Spencer Collins and his friends that young does not mean voiceless and powerless in your city.
This is a link to the media page on the Little Free Library website: http://littlefreelibrary.org/aboutus/media/
On this page, they claim that over the last year, there have been 10-20 media sources writing about Little Free Libraries every single week. This week, every one of those and dozens more are about your city taking away a little boy’s library.
Madame Mayor, I implore you; do not continue to pass this down the line to City Administrator Scott Lambers. Take this opportunity to work with your City Council and amend city code 16.4-2-2 to allow Little Free Libraries.
Additionally, I would recommend contacting the other members of the City Council and blasting them with your emails. They probably won’t respond, and you don’t need them to anyway. They just need to know what they are voting on and how many other communities around the world have had ZERO issues with free standing, Little Free Libraries.
Contact the The Leawood City Council:
I remember being just like this kid. Ideas, schemes (he’s trying to draw up plans to make the structure free floating but attached to the house to comply with the letter of the law – too cute!), wanting to make a difference in the world and trying many crazy ways to make it happen. I want to see this little dude’s library go back up. I want him to go through the process of fighting for something he believes in and having a just and sane outcome. The only way that is going to happen is if the City Council knows the country is watching and will destroy them if they continue to be assholes to a little kid with a tender, book-loving, community-minded heart. Let’s help this little DIY-Maker in the making and let our voices join those of Spencer Collins and his family in that City Council meeting on July 7.