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Little Free Libraries on the wrong side of the law

Sharing free books with neighbors: What a scourge!

Crime, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure are still a problem in almost every part of America, but two cities have recently cracked down on one of the country's biggest problems: small community libraries where residents can share books.

Officials in Los Angeles and Shreveport, La., have told the owners of homemade lending libraries that they're in violation of city codes, and asked them to remove or relocate their small book collections.

In Los Angeles, Peter Cook, who acts under the name Peter Mackenzie, and his wife, writer Lili Flanders, were told by a city investigator that their curbside library was an obstruction. They were given a week to remove it, or else face fines from the city. This came after an anonymous note from "a neighbor who hates you and your kids" was left on their library, ordering them to "Take it down or the city will."

The couple is declining to remove or relocate the library, with Cook telling the Times that he'll refuse to obey "the blinded Cyclops of L.A. city — wildly swinging its cudgel to destroy something that has made the city and this neighborhood a better place."

A spokesman for City Councilman Paul Koretz said there's a chance the library could remain if the owners got a permit, which could be paid for by city arts funds.

It's a similar situation to the one in Shreveport, where the city sent a cease and desist letter to the owners of a Little Free Library. Ricky and Teresa Edgerton were told they could file an appeal to let the library remain, but it would cost $500.

Residents of the Louisiana city were not amused. An artist named Kathryn Usher constructed a makeshift lending library outside her home, and told The (Shreveport) Times, "I did it in solidarity with Ricky. I'm basically telling the [Metropolitan Planning Commission] to go sod off." Another Shreveport resident, Chris Redford, did the same thing, saying, "I just put my books out there to show that I support the Little Free Libraries in every community and what they stand for."

The Edgertons might get a reprieve, however: a Shreveport city councilman told the newspaper that "a resolution is being drafted to waive existing Little Free Libraries" from zoning laws.

It remains to be seen how both situations will be resolved, and what other cities might join Los Angeles and Shreveport in addressing the growing problem of people sharing books they love with their neighbors.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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