Although Whitefish Bay has become the first municipality in the country to keep Little Free Library boxes out of front yards, Shorewood — which has also seen the phenomenon — has no intentions to regulate them at this time, the village manager said.
Village Manager Chris Swartz confirmed that Shorewood has an ordinance preventing general structures in front yards, similar to Whitefish Bay's. Swartz said most municipalities have them.
“Everyone has a similar type ordinance about structures in front yards,” he said. “It’s common and dates to the 1960s and 50s.”
However, Swartz said he believes that “ordinances should be cultivated based on need and debate a bit,” and in Shorewood, no one has complained about the boxes, which have sprouted up in communities across the country in an effort to foster literacy and community. "We don't plan to regulate them at this time," he said on Friday.
People can create their own box or order one using the directions on the Little Free Libraries website. The phenomenon has Wisconsin roots. People are supposed take the free books from the box and return them after reading or leave one of their own.
Of the boxes, Swartz added, “We’ve only had a couple so far, and I haven’t heard any complaints yet. I am sure as they get more popular” there could be more concern or they could “start getting destroyed or vandalized or people not maintaining them as they grow as a phenomenon," he said.
The only box he has personally seen in Shorewood is along Morris Blvd. “It’s a beautiful little cabinet,” he said. “I was curious what it was when I saw it, and people said these things are becoming hot.”
In Whitefish Bay, the Village Board decided to enforce the existing village code and ban Little Free Libraries from front yards across the village. Mailboxes and other structures are not allowed in the front yards of Whitefish Bay homes.
There are more than 4,000 to 5,000 Little Free Libraries in 34 countries, but Whitefish Bay is the first municipality to ban the structures, according to Rick Brooks from the national Little Free Library organization, as reported on Whitefish Bay Patch.
Whitefish Bay's action began in September, after Christ Church put up a Little Free Library in front of its meditation garden. Paul Launer, the village's building inspector, brought the issue before the Village Board.