Little Library Causes Big Zoning Controversy

Jul 7, 2014
Originally published on July 8, 2014 8:02 am

Note: See an update on this story here.

City leaders in Leawood, Kansas tonight will take up 9-year-old Spencer Collins‘ Little Free Library.

The boy had put up a slightly larger than a birdfeeder box containing a free book exchange in his front yard, but a neighbor complained it was an eyesore and “an illegal detached structure” that violated the town’s zoning ordinances.

The city originally told the boy that the Little Free Library he had in front of his house violated the city ban on unattached buildings in front yards, but agreed to discuss the ordinance at the City Council meeting tonight.

Spencer Collins and his dad Brian Collins, who will defend their Little Free Library at tonight’s Leawood City Council meeting, speak with Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Todd Bol, executive director of the nonprofit organization Little Free Library, which sells and registers little libraries, says these kinds of zoning fights usually end up embarrassing town leaders.

Interview Highlights

Brian Collins on being told the library was an eyesore that violated city codes

“We were out of town and when we got back we got a courtesy letter from the city of Leawood telling us the Little Free Library is illegal and that we had until June 19th to take it down or receive a citation.”

Spencer Collins on the positive impacts of the Little Free Library

“It benefits reading and, as my mom says, it really benefits the community.”

Todd Bol on the major success of Little Free Library

“This has, hopefully, a major impact on improving literacy throughout the country. We planned on passing Andrew Carnegie [who built 2,509 libraries] and we thought that it would take until 2016 and we did it — we built 2510 by August of 2012. So our next goal is to pass McDonald’s. When we hit about 55,000 libraries we’re gonna put a sign on the library that says, ‘Billions and billions read.’ You know, more books than burgers. We thought that’d be great.”

Guests

  • Spencer and Brian Collins, son and father team defending their Little Free Library.
  • Todd Bol, co-founder and executive director of the Little Free Library. Little Free Library tweets @LtlFreeLibrary.
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