Sunday, June 22, 2014

Government Hates Competition: Shut's Down 9 Year Old's Little Free Library

/9 year Spencer Collins and his mini-free-library on his parent's front lawn
A 9-year-old Leawood boy is doing his part to promote reading, but he's hit a roadblock.

Leawood city leaders have told Spencer Collins that he has to stop sharing books with his neighbors.

Collins had to take down his little free library, essentially a communal bookshelf, on Wednesday. The motto of the sharing center had been "take a book, leave a book," but Collins learned there's a lot less give and take in city government.

His Father, Brian Collins, who lives near the intersection of 89th Street and Ensley Lane, installed a Little Free Library his father-in-law had given his wife for her birthday around three weeks ago. Collins went out of town for a few days last week, and when he arrived home, he found a letter from the city’s codes enforcement officer informing him that the Little Free Library was not permitted under city code because it was a “detached structure” and that he had until June 19 to come into compliance.

“Your take a book leave a book structure must be attached to the house,” the letter read

Collins loves reading. He doesn't just dive into a book -- he swims through its pages.

"It's kind of like I'm in a whole other world and I like that," he said. "I like adventure stories because I'm in the adventure and it's fun."

When he tried to share his love for books, it started a surprisingly frustrating adventure.

"When we got home from vacation, there was a letter from the city of Leawood saying that it was in code violation and it needed to be down by the 19th or we would receive a citation," said Spencer's mother, Sarah Collins. 

Leawood said the little house is an accessory structure. The city bans buildings that aren't attached to someone's home.

The family moved the little library to the garage, but Spencer Collins said he plans to take the issue up with City Hall.

"I would tell them why it's good for the community and why they should drop the law," he said. "I just want to talk to them about how good it is."

"We empathize with them, but we still have to follow the rules," said Richard Coleman of the City of Leawood. "We need to treat everybody the same. So we can't say if somebody files a complaint but we like the little libraries -- we think they're cute -- so we ignore it. We can't do that."

Leawood said it has received two complaints about Spencer Collins' library.

Collins said he's trying to think outside the box, looking for ways to keep the library going within the letter of the law.

"I thought, why not get a rope and attach it to our house and the library?" he said.

He has also set up a Facebook page for it.

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