Should cities be allowed to ban Little Free Libraries?

Little free libraries
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It's enough to turn me into a Libertarian.

Recently TreeHugger Mike asked Are "aesthetic reasons" a valid excuse to justify banning rooftop solar? All over North America, busybody neighbors are complaining to inspectors who then feel obliged to do insane and ridiculous things. In Ajax, Ontario, a family was ordered to dismantle its front yard ice rink or face a fine up to $25,000. This is CANADA, where they take their ice and hockey seriously. All on the basis of a single complaint from a neighbor.

But the most ludicrous case of them all is in Shreveport, Louisiana, where a neighbor complained about Ricky and Teresa Edgerton's Little Free Library. According to the zoning administrator, "the book swaps are, by definition, libraries equivalent to Shreve Memorial Library, and under city law a library can only exist in a commercially-zoned area."

Neighbors have rallied round, wondering "With everything that's facing our city right now they're going to take issue with this? It's not hurting anyone."

It's happening in Los Angeles too; The LA times starts its article with dripping sarcasm:

Crime, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure are still a problem in almost every part of America, but two cities have recently cracked down on one of the country's biggest problems: small community libraries where residents can share books.

The owners were given a week to remove their library or the city would fine them. Evidently order came after an anonymous note from "a neighbor who hates you and your kids" was left on their library, ordering them to "Take it down or the city will."

Oh the wonders and joys of urban life and getting along.

little free librariesLittle Free Library/Screen capture

Little Free Libraries are such a cute and wonderful idea that hurt nobody and take up almost no space. They are part of an international movement to improve literacy and they are the real sharing economy. One constitutional scholar claims that banning them is probably a breach of the first amendment: "The government wants to prohibit the citizen from extending a book to a fellow citizen on what is the owner's property...That's a subtle distinction that is required by compromising the city's power to run itself and the free speech rights of its citizens."

Personally I am being a total hypocrite here. I believe in restricting the right of owners to tear down historic buildings, to have giant snakes or IKEA monkeys as pets. I do not believe we have an unfettered right to do what we want on our property. Because we all have neighbors.

But Little Free Libraries- only the most cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge horror story of a neighbor could complain about that. Humbug. I know this survey feels a little like the one we ran yesterday, but this is a problem that is clearly growing.

Should cities be allowed to ban Little Free Libraries?
There are reasonable limits on what people can do on their properties. But this goes too far.

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