- - Thursday, June 26, 2014


In the Kansas City, Kansas, suburb of Leawood, Spencer Collins, age 9, a voracious reader, wanted to share his love of books with his neighbors. He set up his own little library on the front lawn.

His favorite books were placed with care in a small bookshelf with a shingled roof and glass doors protecting them from the elements. A sign on the door provides the instruction: “Take a book, leave a book.”

The idea was a hit with friends and neighbors, but not dull government officials. Officious busybodies at City Hall told the family the other day on their return from vacation that Spencer’s books were in violation of the city code and had to go. The bookshelf lacked a building permit, and the city code prohibits “accessory structures” that aren’t attached to a house.

Young Spencer (and his parents) refuse to back down. Spencer told TV station KMBC that the books are “good for the community” and the city “should drop the law … I just want to talk to them about how good it is.”

City leaders are standing their ground, too, insisting that rules are rules. (Where do they find these guys?)

Spencer started a Facebook page last week called “Spencer’s Little Free Library” to advocate for his cause. Already, he has 30,000 followers (which is approximately 30,000 more than the bureaucrats have).

Such things might not be common in cities like Washington, but in small towns, little libraries are popular. Lutie Stearns, a librarian, took books to nearly 1,400 locations in Wisconsin through “traveling little libraries” at the start of the 20th century. Five years ago, the idea was rekindled by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin. There are nearly 15,000 little libraries now sharing books everywhere from Mexico to Australia to Afghanistan. Except in Leawood, Kansas.

When most children would rather stare at a television screen or play a video game, precocious kids should be encouraged to read more. The code-enforcement officers in Leawood would do well to pick up a book as well, since it’s obvious they have a lot of free time on their hands — and a lot to learn.

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