Yael T. Abouhalkah

June 24, 2014

Good solution emerges in Leawood’s ‘Free Little Library’ controversy

Little old Leawood may be on the verge of doing the right thing when it comes to “free little libraries.” Long story, short: If the City Council on July 7 acts appropriately, the little libraries could be placed on front yards as soon as July 8.

Little old Leawood may be on the verge of doing the right thing when it comes to “free little libraries.”

In the latest development Tuesday, City Administrator Scott Lambers said the City Council on July 7 would have the opportunity to place a moratorium on enforcing a city ordinance that prohibits structures in front yards.

Long story, short: If the council adopts the moratorium — as it should — the little libraries could be placed on front yards as soon as July 8.

Stung by a national outcry on social media, the city is trying to repair its image from the case involving 9-year-old Spencer Collins.

Background from The Star: “The Collins family had set up their library on Mother’s Day, joining a worldwide movement that promotes hand-crafted structures and a free book exchange. It stood at the end of the family’s driveway for about a month, but now sits in their garage after the city sent a letter saying the library violates a city ordinance prohibiting structures in front yards.”

That set off a landslide of stories creating negative images of Leawood.

The Los Angeles Times, for instance, wrote, “Boy forced to remove Little Free Library from his yard in Kansas.”

Time magazine wrote, “City Forces 9-Year-Old Boy to Move ‘Little Free Library’ From Front Yard.”

Editorially, The Star recently called on Leawood to jettison the restriction on the little libraries in front yards.

In a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon, Lambers pointed out that the city on July 7 also would be looking for a way to permanently allow the free little libraries.

That would require passing a new ordinance that would have to go through the regular channels of public hearings before the council could adopt it. That could take a few months, and supporters and opponents would have their chances to sound off on the proposed ordinance.

For now, though, the moratorium sounds like a great idea.

And it sure would improve Leawood’s image on the local and national stages.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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