Little Libraries Are Popping Up in Dallas – But Not Everyone Is Happy

Is it curmudgeons, or the city?

By Luke QuintonMay 5, 2015 8:30 am|

Have you seen one of those Little Free Libraries in your neighborhood? Well, if you haven’t, picture a small cabinet, that sits on your neighbor’s front lawn. The cabinet’s full of books and there’s usually a sign that says, “Leave one, Take one.” And neighbors walking by do exactly that – pretty harmless, right? Well apparently not. In the Dallas neighborhood of Lake Highlands. That’s where one unhappy citizen wants one little library to come down.

In December of last year, Stacy Holmes and her husband Brandon built and installed a small Library in the front of their house. She says her neighbors started coming by right away.

“They were so glad to finally have one in our neighbourhood,” Holmes says. “And some actually came by and said they were thinking about doing the same…some of them were actually upset that we’d beat them to it!”

She says the little library added a little adventure for neighborhood kids on a walk – and adults used it too.  At least four or five people stopped by a day. It wasn’t just a library; it was building a community.

“We’ve met more neighbors in the past couple of months than we have in the last 15 years in this house,” Holmes says. “I’m actually a third generation inhabitant of this neighborhood…my grandparents lived here, my mom lived here, and we live here and I’ve never met so many neighbors as I have in the last couple of months. It’s been incredible.”

But not all her neighbors agreed. The Holmes family found that out when they received a notice from the city of Dallas. Their little library had been deemed a code violation. But the code officer wasn’t too eager to see the little library go up in flames.

“He left the notice in our mailbox, and he told us we had 10 days to remove it, and when we finally reached him by phone, he said that it would have been something he left alone,” Holmes says. “He realized they were popping up all over Dallas, and were kind of an ‘in’ thing all over the world…but it’s just that someone has complained, and therefore he had to address it.”

Holmes has no idea which of her neighbors complained to the city.

“The code violation of the little free library was of storage units are not allowed in front yards, by the city code,” she says. “I think it’s more for large storage pods in people’s front yards for longer than 24 hours is what its general intention is.”

Jo Guidice is director of the Dallas Public Libraries. She’s been called in to smooth things over, because it turns out, the city of Dallas has has built its own little libraries all over the city.

“We’ve established 14 in west dallas and south dallas, and I think we have about 40 more coming soon,” Guidice says.

She applauds Stacy Holmes and her library, although she adds the city does things differently. The Dallas Public Libraries check the codes before they install the cabinets, and she thinks that’s why no one has complained.

But Holmes says hers is far from the only front-lawn library.

“The only reason why mine is being picked on is because we have someone in our neighborhood who has complained,” Holmes says. “My neighbors have been seemingly very upset that someone has turned it in. They find it ridiculous, mostly. And they’re very supportive, calling the city on their ridiculousness …they’re rallying behind us.”

But, perhaps sensing a backlash from literary citizens, the city doesn’t want to be in the business of knocking down libraries, no matter how tiny.

I don’t know what that solution’s going to be at this point, but we won’t give up,” says Guidice. “But there are little free libraries like this all over the nation, so we should be able to work this out.”