Rules outweigh rationality — again

I’ve posted before that there are times government elevates rules over simple common sense. While that post dealt with kids and “guns,” it now appears books can get cause government brain farts too.

free libraryA 9-year-old Kansas boy and his family had to move their “Little Free Library” after the town of Leawood said it violated city code because it was a “detached structure.” For those not familiar with the concept, ” a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share.”

Spencer Collins’ free library is shown at the left in a photo from the Spencer’s Little Free Library Facebook page. A letter from Leawood’s code enforcement officer said, “Your take a book leave a book structure must be attached to the house.” The City Administrator, meanwhile, suggested seeing if the county library would let Spencer’s Little Free Library be placed there. That makes sense. Let’s go put what is essentially a neighborhood box of books outside a building full of books.

Facing a daily $25 fine if they didn’t comply with the Leawood ordinance, the Collins put the Little Free Library in the garage. And while I’m sorry to let legal logic intrude, even if the garage it isn’t an attached structure, is it?

A Kansas City television station reported the town had received two complaints about the library and a city official told it, “We need to treat everybody the same.” True, but is what’s happening here really the intent of the ordinance. Evidently Spencer’s problem is that rather than just putting a cardboard box of books outside the house, he made an effort to present an attractive “structure.” That’ll teach him what happens if you try to provide something to your community.

He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach — that it makes no sense.

Philip Roth, American Pastoral

Comments are closed.