LEAWOOD, Kan. – A Leawood law has forced a young boy and his family to take down something they built as a Mother’s Day gift. That’s because city officials say it violated a long-standing ordinance. After just a week of display, the family has removed the “free little library” from its front yard, but says the fight is not over.
The Collins family lives off Ensley Lane near 89th Street. The family loves to read and wanted to share that passion with people in the neighborhood. The family set up a cabinet-like structure with clear glass doors and a shingled roof near the base of the driveway.
They called it a “free little library” where people could give and take books from the shelves. Nine-year-old Spencer Collins said his mother, who is an elementary school teacher, loved the idea when she saw it in another state. Spencer decided to work with his father and grandfather to build the free little library for their front yard.
“Reading is one of my favorite things to do. We built it on Mother’s Day as a present for my mom because she really wanted one.”
He said the idea behind the give-and-take book sharing is for people to “get into reading, get to know your neighbors, and just make new, meet new people, make friends,” Spencer said.
Spencer’s father Brian said the concept is easy.
“Take a book, leave a book. It’s very simple. You can take as many as you want, you can leave as many as you want.”
Brian Collins said the family came home from a trip to find a letter explaining the library violated an ordinance which doesn’t allow structures in the front yard of single-family homes.
“I thought it was ridiculous,” Brian said.
Leawood director of community development Richard Coleman said the city isn’t targeting Spencer’s library, but is enforcing a law.
“It applies to any structure, so we aren’t targeting the little libraries. You couldn’t put a bookcase out there, or a couch out there, or any items like that,” Coleman said.
Spencer’s father says that stance is a misinterpretation.
“I’m all for the law. I think the law is a good one. I think the intent of the law is a good one. I think applying it to something that won’t house mice is a bad idea,” he said.
A structure intended to share reading and knowledge with a neighborhood now removed; a little boy who will fight to put his Mother’s Day gift back in place.
“I want them to change the law. That’s my main thought. I just don’t like it. I think it’s unfair because it’s really good to the community,” Spencer said.
The family took down the library Wednesday afternoon so it is no longer in violation of an ordinance and does not face a fine. Spencer says he plans to address city council at its next meeting.