City Cracks Down On 9-Year-Old For Opening Free Library In His Front Yard

CREDIT: Spencer's Little Free Library Facebook page

Spencer Collins, 9, stands in front of his homemade library before being forced to shut it down

A nine-year-old boy in eastern Kansas who decided to open his own little front-yard library and share books with his neighbors has been shut down for violating a city zoning ordinance.

Spencer Collins lives in Leawood, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. Like many precocious children, he loves reading. “It’s kinda like a whole ‘nother world, and I like that,” he told KMBC.

Last month, Collins had an idea for how to share his passion for literature: a little free library. The Little Free Library Movement began in 2009 when Todd Bol of western Wisconsin built a mailbox-like structure that held books and placed it in his front yard with a sign to “take a book, return a book.” Little free libraries have since popped up around the world.

On May 11, Mother’s Day, Collins put out his own little free library, complete with children’s classics like Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

But a month later, his parents received a letter from officials saying the library violated the city’s zoning ordinance and needed to be removed or they would be fined. The city prohibits people from having structures on their property that are detached from the physical house.

City officials justified the move because they said they “need to treat everybody the same,” says Richard Coleman, noting they can’t just ignore the two complaints they’d received because “we like the little libraries.”

Collins is now rallying support on his Facebook page and studying municipal ordinances in an effort to get the city council to amend its code.