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Kansas city shuts down boy's 'little free library'

June 20, 2014 at 1:26 PM ET

Good fences may make good neighbors, but little free libraries in the front yard may elicit complaints from them.

A 9-year-old Kansas boy was forced to remove a small community bookshelf from his front yard after local officials threatened to issue his family a citation because of their illegal "detached structure."

"They were going to charge us $25 a day, so we took it down," the boy's father, Brian Collins, told TODAY.

He and his wife helped their son, Spencer, put up the bookshelf on Mother's Day hoping to "encourage literacy, reading and community."

The little library, which was made by the boy's grandfather, was as big as an oversized birdhouse and had “take a book, leave a book” instructions taped to the front door. The bookshelf sat next to a park bench intended to provide a spot for readers to enjoy their books. 

Last week, however, the family received a letter from the city of Leawood's code enforcement division, notifying them they would be fined unless they removed the structure by Thursday. The family has since moved the bookshelf into the garage.

Video: After complaints from neighbors, city officials asked a 9-year-old Kansas boy and his family to remove a small community bookshelf in their front yard. The family will fight to keep it. Natalie Morales defended the boy manning the shelf, saying, “The kid is encouraging the love of reading.”

In a statement the city of Leawood issued to TODAY, an official said that a property maintenance code enforcement officer had noticed the bookshelf but "thought it was placed in the yard for pick up." Several days later, the officer received complaints about it and notified the family the structure violated a city ordinance that states “no detached structure, including garages, barns, sheds, greenhouses, above ground pools, or outbuildings, shall be permitted."

Collins said his son and his wife plan to petition the Leawood council at its meeting next month and urge them to amend the rule to allow little libraries like theirs. Until then, he hopes the publicity surrounding the issue will help.

"We hope to have it overturned via the power of social media," he said.

Watch: City tells family to take down free library on lawn

On Friday, TODAY anchors expressed shock over both the fact that the city shut down the bookshelf and that anyone would complain about the structure.

“The kid is out there encouraging the love of reading, and bringing neighbors together,” Natalie Morales said.

“Obviously, not all the neighbors,” Al Roker noted, later urging the Leawood City Council to “do the right thing.”

Follow TODAY.com writer Eun Kyung Kim on Google+ or on Twitter.


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