Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Worth a Crackdown?

Little Free Library, illustration, Common Sense, Paul Jacob

Charming. That is the best word to describe the “Little Free Library” movement.

Haven’t heard of it? It is the practice by which just plain folks share their books by building these little birdhouse-sized free lending libraries that they place in their yards by the curb. Usually, the little “libraries” encourage folks to take a book, bring a book.

Sometimes they advise readers to just take.

It’s the spirit of the public library, only provided privately, and without great pretense. Or expense.

The example in the artwork, above, is from across the country, in the tiny burg of Cathlamet, Washington. A reader sent me the photo. It is obvious: libraries like this are both quaint and useful — encouraging literacy, the activity of reading, and the appreciation of learning.

And yet, local governments across the country are cracking down.

Andrew Collins, writing at the Franklin Center website, points to an excellent Conor Friedersdorf article published early this year in The Atlantic, “The Danger of Being Neighborly Without a Permit.” Both these pieces present how meddlesome, ugly, intrusive, and anti-social local governments can be. Harassing friendly book providers with cease-and-desist letters, fines, and other niggly, invasive spins on zoning and public nuisance laws is just so idiotic it hardly merits much comment. But I agree with Friedersdorf — folks hosting Little Free Libraries are acting in the “venerable tradition” described by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, the cooperative, neighborly culture that made our country great.

Government officials attacking this new, endearing bit of Americana are grand examples of the pettiness that is bringing America down.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

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Little Free Library, illustration, Common Sense, Paul Jacob


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