Shreveport City Council wants regulations for Little Free Libraries

Shreveport City Council wants regulations for Little Free Libraries

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The Shreveport City Council voted Tuesday to introduce an ordinance regulating book swap boxes called Little Free Libraries, but not all book lovers think the government regulation is a good idea. The proposed idea isn't final, another vote on the issue is expected at their October 13 meeting.

Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) declared the Little Free Libraries a zoning violation after an anonymous complaint was brought against a Little Free Library in the Highland area. The MPC claimed the free book swap program was a commercial business in a residential area and sent the owner of the tiny library a cease and desist letter.

After the complaint, the city cited the owner of the Little Free Library saying that technically it's a permanent structure built on a homeowner's property without permit or permission and by ordinance, it's illegal no matter its good intentions.

After an outcry from residents, the city council passed a moratorium allowing Little Free Libraries within the city until the MPC could rewrite the ordinances.

Tuesday, the city council introduced an amended ordinance to allow the book swap boxes, but with regulations. The proposed ordinance would require someone wanting to set up a Little Free library to pay a $50 fee, submit design plans to the city and have an on site inspection.

But, Theresa Edgerton believes the proposed zoning ordinance could put a damper on the opening of new little free libraries in Shreveport.

"It strikes me as short-sided to discourage that, in neighborhoods where $50 is a prohibitive amount," said Edgerton.

Melissa Gibson and her son Cooper are also proponents of the Little Free Libraries and love their "robot-like" Little Free Library.

"It's been a nice community builder. We've definitely talked with people we have never met before," said Gibson.

But like Edgerton, Gibson isn't happy with the proposed ordinance.

According to Councilman Jeff Everson, talks of reducing the amount have been ongoing, but in order to operate a free-standing unit, a permit is necessary and the $50 bucks would cover filing fees.

"I think the ordinances they are proposing are a little overbearing," Gibson said.

Everson is a Little Free Library supporter, but believes the regulations are necessary.

"It is in the best interest of public safety to have some regulation of where they are placed," he said at Tuesday's council meeting.

But Gibson doesn't agree.

"Let the citizens do a positive without them [the government] interfering," she said.

"I'm not sure this is the best use of resources and personnel for the city," Edgerton said to the council about the ordinances.

Edgerton also told the council she believes the ordinance will discourage people from setting up the Little Free Libraries.

"I just think it seems more intimidating and burdensome than it needs to be," she said.

Supporters of the free library say they won't settle, they want the little libraries to continue to spread and they don't believe expansion should come at a steep price.

Councilman Everson said he is open to more discussion of the ordinance before the final vote.

Little Free Library is a movement to encourage literacy by offering free books in communities.

There are 15,000 Little Free Libraries around the world that are meant to encourage literacy by offering free books in communities.

The Shreveport City Council will likely vote on the Little Free Library ordinance at their next council meeting on October 13.

To read the proposed ordinance click here. 

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