July 23, 2014
By Jordan Richardson
Call it a victory for common sense.
City officials in Leawood, Kan., have reversed course after ordering a 9-year-old boy to tear down the little free library he built in his front yard for Mother's Day.
Late on July 7, after Spencer Collins had appeared before the Leawood City Council to advocate for permission to share his love of reading books with his neighbors, the council unanimously approved a temporary measure that would allow the free little library to stand in his yard.
The council has proposed a more permanent solution to allow little free libraries in Leawood. It will be taken up in October after a public-comment period.
This issue began when the city's codes enforcement office sent a letter to Spencer and his family warning they would face an official citation if the little library was not removed from their front yard.
The story attracted national attention, and more than 31,000 people expressed support for Spencer on his Facebook page. With media pressure mounting, the city council was forced to address the publicity nightmare it created.
Spencer addressed the city council to explain his position. "I think free little libraries are good for Leawood, and I hope you will change the code," he said.
Fellow residents joined in. "Reading is a solitary endeavor, but this makes it about the community. It is about neighbors reaching out to neighbors," said Wyatt Townley, a resident.
Ultimately, the council agreed with Spencer and unanimously approved a moratorium that exempts little libraries.
Not everyone was happy, though.
"Why do we pay taxes for libraries and have those boxes on the street?" asked one attendee. Another member claimed the little libraries were eyesores and argued, "You will destroy Leawood if you destroy our codes and bylaws."
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and the city is on course to amend the ordinance to permanently allow small libraries in the front yards of Leawood residents. The moratorium approved on July 7 is only a temporary solution, but it is a step in the right direction.
Ray Bradbury famously stated, "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." For those interested in encouraging literacy and spreading the joy of reading, this was a victory.
- Jordan Richardson is a visiting legal fellow in the Meese Center at The Heritage Foundation.
Originally distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Visiting Legal Fellow
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 450,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2015, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973