Library set free! Leawood moratorium allows Collins family to reinstall Little Free Library

Spencer Collins asked the Leawood City Council on Monday to allow his family to put its Little Free Library back in their front yard.
Spencer Collins asked the Leawood City Council on Monday to allow his family to put its Little Free Library back in their front yard.

Spencer Collins’ Leawood Little Free Library is legal — at least for now.

The Leawood Governing Body on Monday unanimously approved a temporary moratorium on the city’s development ordinance as it pertains to “containers designed to hold books or other media to be shared by members of the community,” allowing the family to reinstall the Little Free Library that sparked cries of indignity across the country after a codes official threatened to cite the family from planting the structure in their front yard.

[pullquote]Spencer Collins’ speech to the Leawood City Council
Click the arrow to play. [/pullquote]

Spencer’s father Brian says he plans to reinstall the Little Free Library in their Ensley Lane front yard today for the first time since he removed it June 18.

The moratorium will run through October 20, during which period the council and city staff will be examining a permanent change to the Leawood Development Ordinance that would allow for Little Free Libraries. City Administrator Scott Lambers asked the council for permission to survey the city’s more than 100 homes associations about what kinds of features they would expect from an ordinance allowing Little Free Libraries, saying such input would be important to crafting language that would serve the city well.

Some members of the council suggested that certain guidelines — like requiring a Little Free Library to be the same color as the house in front of which it sits — could help ease concerns about aesthetics and home values. Brian Collins said after the vote on the issue that he was happy with the outcome, but that there were still hurdles.

“I’m satisfied with the results of tonight,” he said. “But I have major concerns about some of the restrictions they were talking about. Regulating colors, I think you’d get into some serious issues.”

Prior to the vote, Spencer made a short speech to the council, telling them he thought Little Free Libraries were “good for Leawood.” His cause was bolstered by comments from several additional speakers, including Wyatt Townley, the poet-laureate of Kansas, who said Little Free Libraries allowed people to enjoy the “solitude of a book communally.”

Not everyone was as bullish on the idea of getting Collins’ Little Free Library back out in their front yard, though.

Wade King, who lives near the Collins family on Ensley Lane, told the council he thought they had allowed themselves to be bullied by the media, and that the Little Free Library was an eyesore.

“I want to know why I pay all these taxes for these libraries, and we’ve got to have these little old boxes — eyesores — sitting on our streets,” he said.

King said he’d lived in Leawood for 58 years largely because of the restrictive building codes, and that he felt Little Free Library poses a number of liability issues.

“What if someone stepped off a curb and got hit by a car reading a book?” he said. “What if a poisonous spider got in there?”

King told the council that they would “destroy Leawood if you destroy our codes and bylaws.”

In recounting the events that had led to the vote, Lambers said that the codes department had received two anonymous complaints about the structure.

Members of the Leawood council noted that they had received hundreds of emails about the situation from across the country, some of which were obscene and threatening — though the majority of the input they’d received from local residents had been civil.

Neighbor Wade King said the Little Free Library was an "eyesore."
Neighbor Wade King said the Little Free Library was an “eyesore.”
After the vote, Mayor Peggy Dunn presented Spencer with a book for his Little Free Library.
After the vote, Mayor Peggy Dunn presented Spencer with a book for his Little Free Library.