The voices of citizens across Shreveport and the nation have been heard.
The Shreveport City Council voted on Res. 19 at today’s meeting concerning the installation of Little Free Libraries (LFLs) across the city. Understanding the common benefits of LFLs and the like, the city council voted unanimously to approve the resolution which includes the following passage:
“…literacy, education, and leisure reading are important to the well-being of the city and its residents, and the free flow and sharing of books helps to further those purposes…”
Stephanie Park, leader of the petition to allow for Little Free Library structures to be allowed by the zoning ordinances in Shreveport, La., spoke in front of the Shreveport City Council during its biweekly meeting earlier today.
Park believes that structures and amenities that make Shreveport an attractive place for families and the community as a whole should not be “micromanaged.” Park says that an MPC member retracted their statement about the zoning ordinance not allowing for commercial activity in a residential zone, therefore making the original cease and desist letter “null and void.”
Councilman Jeff Everson of District B expedited a resolution on the agenda for this meeting that will suspend certain zoning ordinances and allow for Little Free Libraries to remain until the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) takes further action to permanently regulate these structures.
The resolution notes the desire of the Metropolitan Planning Commission to conduct a study about how best to accommodate LFLs in future zoning ordinances:
“…city Zoning Ordinance does not currently allow such book exchange boxes, and the city and the Metropolitan Planning Commission wish to study whether and under what conditions they should be allowed, in order to insure that the structures are compatible with neighborhoods…”
This resolution would allow for boxes to be in place until the MPC comes up with its new plan, after which this temporary allowance would dissolve and any rules would default to the new ordinance.
According to this temporary exception granted by the city, LFLs may have a maximum height of five feet, a maximum width of four feet and a maximum length of four feet. Boxes will be out of compliance if they are dilapidated or allow books to be exposed to the elements.
Now that this is temporarily behind us, we need to look forward. Not just to the future MPC Zoning Ordinances that will replace outdated language which snagged the presence of LFLs, but to all areas of our community that may see creativity and freedom bump up against codes and laws.
“The silver lining is that we do have these passionate people in our community… it’s extremely important that they show up for the UDC forums. I know the MPC has been blamed a lot for all the bad publicity. I can see why they say that. But I want you to know and I want everyone to know, that as soon as we found out about it… the culture is changing,” Chairman of the MPC Lea Desmarteau said.
In an ideal world, the MPC would have communicated with the landowner and the citizens before or just as they issued the ordinance. The City should have had in place a system for appeals that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
“I strongly support the LFL because I think it’s fun and generous and neighborly, and it really is a wonderful thing for our community… And events like this take all the fun and magic out of things, and once you do that, it’s hard to put it back.” Janie Lipscomb
The City needs to find ways to act with a unified vision for the future that addresses they way we approach conflicts that don’t have to incite a digital riot. Communication is key, and had the intentions been reveled sooner, we might not have gone through what we did. Acting on an ordinance just because it’s on the books doesn’t have to happen. People created the laws, and cases brought to the City’s and MPC’s attention should be met with reasonable exemptions and review post haste.
As Shreveport progresses as a city out of the 20th century into the 21st century, we need to focus on a lot of things. While the Little Free Libraries are important, the larger issue at hand is that of a community reaching for the future while tethered to the past. If Shreveport wants to grow and become a desirable community, this kind of negative publicity needs to be avoided, damage control needs to be implemented.
Read the entire resolution here.
Contributing to this article is Regan Horn.