Boy forced to remove Little Free Library from his yard in Kansas

A Little Free Library in Venice, Calif.
A Little Free Library in Venice, Calif.
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

The idea of sharing his love of books with his neighbors was thrilling to 9-year-old Spencer Collins. So, with the help of his parents, he set up a Little Free Library in their yard in Leawood, Kansas.

City authorities told the family to take it down.

Little Free Libraries are a little like a dollhouse full of books: they sit on a pole or wall or fence, have two or three shelves and may include a protective glass door. An encouraging sign is posted -- “Take a book, return a book” -- prompting people who walk past to take a look and grab something to read.


There are more than 10,000 Little Free Libraries set up around the world. Kits can be ordered online; Spencer Collins got one as a gift from his grandfather.

The Leawood City Council said it had received a couple of complaints about Spencer Collins’ Little Free Library. They dubbed it an “illegal detached structure” and told the Collins’ they would face a fine if they did not remove the Little Free Library from their yard by June 19.

They did so. It’s now set up in the family’s garage. But Spencer isn’t giving up.

In an interview with local television station KMBC, Collins ruminated on creating a pulley system to raise and lower the Little Free Library to provide access. While that probably won’t happen, he is likely to follow through on his plans to appear at the Leawood City Council to suggest Little Free Libraries be allowed.

He will have some supporters. “Leawood should drop rules that prohibit lending libraries in front yards,” proclaims an editorial in the Kansas City Star. “While obviously the ambiance of Leawood would take a hit if people started constructing carports or dog houses in their front yards, lending libraries are an asset. Neighbors who might be worried about them should wander over and borrow a book.”

The Little Free Library was begun by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks in Wisconsin in 2010 simply as a way to share books with neighbors. The founders were given an Innovations in Reading prize at the 2013 National Book Awards. “Both the structure itself and its contents had value,” Brooks explained to the National Book Foundation. “What we soon realized together was that what happened outside that box could establish a rich combination of purposes—new cultural norms for giving and sharing, friendships across generations and cultures, new dissemination channels for books, new ways to extend the reach of public libraries, and much more.”

The Leawood City Council is expected to discuss the Little Free Library issue at its meeting on July 7.


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