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Shorewood Won't Regulate Little Free Libraries

Village doesn't plan to follow Whitefish Bay's lead at this point in regulating the free book boxes.

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.

Bob McBride December 01, 2012 at 03:10 AM
While, personally, I think this makes more sense than what WFB is doing, it's worth mentioning that Journal/Sentinal is making available, free of charge, their old coin operated boxes (all of which are, apparently, being pulled out of service) to folks who want to convert them into "Little Free Libraries". The Village might want to consider pre-emptively developing an appearance standard for the fixtures themselves, in the event some folks decide to avail themselves of the J/S boxes.
Absolutelyfabulous December 01, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Actually, those little boxes really could serve as drop off/pick up destinations for so many things besides books that could fit inside or things that could fit inside books. People can be so creative. BTW, it's nice that you are throwing a bone to the peasants on this one, but I'm interested in finding out what's going on with Anaba and their request to tear down the house behind their business to create a parking lot? Still would like to know what's going on w/ Pick N Save's plans to redevelop their property and Walgreens into a Metro Market including why a $10,300,000 TIF was reccomended to be created for this project. What will potentially be a part of this development besides a Pick N Save or are they receiving one heck of a village subsidy? Did Mequon create any type of TIF when Pick N Save disappeared and a Metro Market popped up on Port Rd "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," That's really great that you have such a deep concern for the residents when it comes to little boxes people may be interested installing in their front yards. Since no one has complained so far then everythings good. How about carrying that goodwill over to when Multi-million dollar developments w/ millions in taxpayer assistance or just hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled to certain businesses that are approved w/out any input or say from residents.
Bob McBride December 01, 2012 at 01:23 PM
If nobody's asking the questions directly, the answers aren't likely to come forward on their own. Show up at a Village board meeting and utilize whatever option they have available for citizens to voice their concerns/ask questions of the board. If nothing else, you can get stonewalled directly in person rather than second hand via Patch.
Absolutelyfabulous December 01, 2012 at 02:11 PM
"Stonewall Schwartz"..nice ring to it Bob. Maybe this could be the greeting at the entrances to the village. "Shorewood, when it doesn't matter, you count and when it does, you don't"
Bewildered December 01, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Are you listening, WFB? Rest of North Shore is laughing at you. Why even the Republic of Shorewood supports the lil' free libraries.

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