A Little Free Library in Lincoln Park Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago

CITY HALL — After a contentious City Council meeting with fierce debates over Chicago’s sanctuary city status, a Far South Side shelter for migrants and the crisis that has left thousands of asylum seekers sleeping on police station floors, alderpeople turned their attention to one final item Wednesday: Little Free Libraries.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) introduced an ordinance this summer to require a public way use permit for anyone wanting to build a “public bookcase” on city-owned property. Little Free Libraries are often placed on city parkways outside their owners’ homes.

The proposed legislation also stipulated only “organizations, not-for-profit entities and licensed businesses” would be eligible to receive the necessary permit to build a bookcase on city land. Libraries on private property, like a front yard, would not be impacted.

Lopez said it was a way to “protect” the libraries by granting them permissions to sit on public land.

Alderpeople temporarily blocked a vote on the ordinance last month, and Lopez brought it back to City Hall for a full vote Wednesday.

But Ald. Samantha Nugent (39th) moved to re-refer the ordinance to the transportation committee, essentially halting it from moving forward.

Alderpeople voted 42-5 to approve that parliamentary measure, which means the legislation will now have to once again clear a committee vote before coming back to all 50 alderpeople.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) and Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) square off in City Council chambers on Oct. 31, 2023. Vasquez is dressed as a “Little Free Library,” in response to Lopez’ push to regulate the public bookcases. Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago

Lopez’s ordinance has received widespread pushback from alderpeople in recent days, despite it breezing through committee review last month.

On Tuesday, Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) dressed up as a Little Free Library for Halloween to poke fun at the proposed regulations.

Holding a piece of paper that read “City Permit DENIED,” Vasquez called the proposal “ridiculous” during a brief interview.

“The reason it got to a vote at committee was because we had recessed from the budget to go into transportation, it took all of 20 minutes. It was kind of bundled with everything else, which is why it made it this far,” Vasquez said on Tuesday. “But clearly, I think this is a solution in search of a problem.”


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