by Marion Marks
The Little Free Library program in Shreveport is now defined as “FREE” after the City Council voted on Tuesday to pass a moratorium allowing Little Free Libraries(LFL) in the city. The definition of the LFL program is still subject to interpretation for those MPC officials struggling with the concept, and I believe a little behind the scenes education with MPC officials may have assisted the matter along.
Councilman Jeff Everson, using nimble political correctness, presented a resolution for a moratorium on the prosecution of the Little Free Libraries until the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) can re-write city ordinances for the free book swap program. The issue should never have required council or MPC interaction in the matter, but over-aggressive ordinance interpretation by staff required lengthy and painful dancing by elected officials to resolve the issue.
During the City Council meeting, Lea Desmarteau, Chair of Shreveport’s MPC, spoke to clarify steps the commission had taken to cover the Little Free Libraries under Shreveport’s ordinances. The matter of using archaic ordinance interpretation in punitive actions by staff was the root of the issue, and only councilman James Flurry called the issue the fiasco that it truly was for giving Shreveport a black eye internationally. And nerves were bared when Councilman Flurry accused the MPC of “embarrassing our city,” as they truly did.
The council unanimously voted to pass the moratorium to protect Little Free Libraries in Shreveport and cover for failures of the MPC staff. The failure the city council and MPC refuse to acknowledge is that all actions taken to date discourage reading, education and enlightenment, a basic mission of the Little Free Library movement, which encourages literacy by offering free books in any neighborhood of many communities.
The little library started by the generous donation of a couple in the 500 block of Wilkinson Street was cited for a zoning violation after a bogus anonymous complaint. The MPC mistakenly claimed that the free book swap program was a commercial business in a residential area as a justification for the citation.
As the MPC issued a cease and desist order to the family who established this Little Free Library, unity rallied behind the owners thru social media and started a petition to overturn the MPC’s order. This show of support has harmed the MPC, Shreveport and citizens who remain frustrated with poor government service.
This Sunday, the Krewe of Highland Parade, which travels along the route by the cited Little Free Library, I expect to see many supporters of reading, literacy and Little Free Libraries. Additionally some parade participants are expected to hand out literature in support of the LFL movement.