The Spencer Collins Library Controversy

Spencer Collins - Library

Will forwarded me an article I have extremely mixed feeling about, Kansas Boy Forced to Remove Little Free Library From His Yard. Nine-year-old Spencer Collins created a little library in his front year. His grandfather built a small structure to house the books and the policy is: give a book and take a book. Well, it turns out that the city of Leawood, Kansas has a law about free standing structures. The city received two complaints about it so the Collins family was told they had to take it down. Cue outrage.

There is no outrage here. There is a little disappointment that I will get to shortly. But there is no cause for outrage. The city has laws. Citizens complained that someone was violating the laws, and the city had to act. I feel certain that if the Collins family goes to the city and asks for a variance for the structure, they will get one. Problem solved. This is not an issue of “big government destroying out freedom!” In fact, I think the ending of this story will be, “Responsive government acting reasonable.”

What is disappointing are the two complainers. I mean: really?! They had a problem with a charming and totally positive project of a local nine-year-old? I mean, this wasn’t a structure that was going to bring in a “bad element” to town: a bunch of pre-teens hanging out at the library, smoking cigarettes and reading The Phantom Tollbooth, “Dude, you gotta check out this children’s adventure novel and modern fairy tale by Norton Juster; it will blow your mind!”

So what you’ve got here are three factions. First, you have a government that I am certain will do the right thing about the library. Although I have to say, now that it has gotten so much publicity, it could (at least temporarily) bring a lot of unwanted traffic to the neighborhood as people drive by to see it. But given that the library is still open, just sitting inside the Collins’ garage, the neighborhood is probably already getting that. Regardless, cities provide variances all the time and I see no reason for Leawood to deny this one.

Second, you have what I’m sure are some old fuddy-duddies who are part of the “no fun” brigade. These are people with nothing better to do than complain about just about everything. I feel sorry for them. I know the type. They would be so much happier if they used the library rather than complain about it. Literature for people that age is generally quite good—better in general than the stuff people write for adults. But whatever. I’m sure once the library is legal, they will find something else to be angry about. Perhaps birds singing or children skipping down the street.

Third, you have young Spencer Collins who is just the best of what we are. Maybe his generation will save us. Instead of “Make Love Not War!” it will be “Build Libraries Not Investment Banks!” And in my way, I am an optimist. I suspect that even now, young Mr Collins is getting a lot of donations for his library. They may want to design a larger structure.


Image cropped from KMBR.

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