New Jersey

A New Jersey Family Wanted Local Kids to Read More. Then a Neighbor Called the Cops.

The family set up a mini-library-and got a visit from the police.


Richard Graulich/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Here's one for the Summer of Snitches file. A New Jersey family thought they were doing neighborhood kids a favor by opening up a free "mailbox library" on their own property and filling it with books. One neighbor apparently didn't agree.

"We thought it was a really fantastic idea," Grace Hagemeyer says of the little free library, which she and her husband Peter set up in front of their house in Point Pleasant Borough, New Jersey. Little free libraries, which have become a nationwide phenonenom, aim to expose children to various books. "We have three children who love to read. It's so cool to think that kids would be running back and forth with books, trading with each other," Grace tells NJ Advance Media.

But then someone called the cops. "We had a grand opening on [July] 29. The 29th is when we had a visit from the police," Grace tells News 12.

A day after that, code enforcement officers informed the Hagemeyers of the library's specific infractions. The problem, Advance Media reports,

was that the mailbox stood more than 2 and a half feet tall, meaning it would have to be placed 10 feet from the property line. Another issue, she was initially told, was that such libraries are not allowed because they're not mentioned in the land-use ordinance.

The Hagemeyers were given 10 days to comply. But they couldn't understand why someone had such an issue with their library in the first place. "I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this is such a problem," Grace says to Advance Media. "It's a waste of time, it's a waste of resources. Police should not be knocking on people's door because they want to give away books."

Point Pleasant Borough Administrator Frank Pannucci admits the situation "got blown out of proportion" because a neighbor decided to involve police. "There's nothing wrong with [the library] itself," he tells Advance Media. Instead of taking the library down, he says the Hagemeyers need to move it back. "You can't have the little free library there, because you're going to have kids walking down the street. It's causing a hazard."

Pannucci says other mini-libraries in the area are probably fine.

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  1. It’s fun, living in the world where everything is an externality.

    1. Crusty’s penis is an externality. With respect to his fly.

  2. The moral of the story is that everyone is dicks.

    1. Not everyone, just neighbors.

  3. Can’t have kids walking down the street you know.

      1. Reading books leads to thinking, and we can’t have that!!!

    1. The sad thing is that I bet whoever called the cops probably also bitches and moans about kids staying in doors all day staring at a screen and somehow doesn’t see the contradiction.

      1. Well, books are usually read indoors too…

    2. Maybe, it’s one of those NJ towns that hasn’t heard of sidewalks yet, because they don’t have train access to New York City.

      1. A few years ago here in Pennsylvania, after a local snow storm, I wish I had my camera. On a snow covered street with no sidewalks, here came a young girl, may aged 7 or 8, walking down the middle of that street, all bundled up with a back pack strapped to her shoulders.

        And no one called the cops.

  4. the list of how many other things not mentioned in the ordinance I could put on my lawn is long and distinguished.

    1. You know what else is long and distinguished? *points at crotch*

      I should go…

      1. You are wrong about other things as well – – – – – – – – – – – –

  5. Saying that things are a waste of time / resources is the wrong argument. It’s like Shapiro says, Libertarians and people on the right keep saying Socialism is wrong because it’s inefficient. No, it’s wrong because it’s immoral.

    The problem with this isn’t that the police are wasting time and resources, it’s that you have no right to tell me I can’t do that on my own property.

    1. It is a little cabinet on a stick. Claiming “public safety hazard” is pretty damned stupid.

      We have those all over the place in Broward County. Many are in public parks, but there are quite a few on private lawns. They are great for “regifting” books by politicians that friends or relatives may have sent your way.

      1. Claiming “public safety hazard” is pretty damned stupid.

        I’ve only seen two in our public parks, both times they were full of moldy books. I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘public safety hazard’ but ‘potentially unsafe cabinet full of mold in a public park’ isn’t an incorrect description.

        1. Oooooh. Now, as a resident of New Mexico, I have to admit that’s not a problem that had occurred to me before.

          (We don’t get a lot of mold here. Cactuses, yes. Mold, not so much.)

          I also now want to acquire as many low cost copies of “Gulag Archipelago” as I can and go fill up those little free libraries with them.

  6. The other mini-libraries made sure Pannooch’s beak got wet?

  7. Pannucci says other mini-libraries in the area are probably fine.

    It’s Jersey. Pannucci is clearly signaling that the other min-libraries have greased his palm and this one needs to pay its share… plus late fees.

    1. These comment seems racist but I can’t put a finger on why.


  8. Good!
    People with unlicensed libraries should be marched right to the local gulag especially when they invite kids over to read. What a bunch of sickos!

    1. Without state supervision, they could have been handing out instructions on how to make a 3-D printed gun!

      1. Or who knows what other subversive, unapproved wrongthink. They should have their little library burned with all the books inside just to be safe.

        1. When I was in college, I worked in the children’s section of a large county library in NJ. You have no idea how often we had someone demanding a book be removed from the shelves.

          Sometimes they’d remove the book for us, unaware that we’d been extensively trained in returning books to their proper location.

      2. Oh please, when I was in high school, my atomic physics professor at Columbia University spent a lecture teaching us how to make atomic bombs. Testing your neutrino source is just a little rocket science.

  9. Another issue, she was initially told, was that such libraries are not allowed because they’re not mentioned in the land-use ordinance.

    That which is not explicitly allowed is forbidden.

    The Hagemeyers were given 10 days to comply. But they couldn’t understand why someone had such an issue with their library in the first place.

    I assume the “logic” goes something like this:

    “Everyone knows” that there’s pedophiles everywhere, hiding behind every tree and every rock just waiting for a chance to grab their kids, and this “little free library” would be a perfect lure for them. A pedo could hide behind it and jump out and grab a kid, or something.

    If true, the fact that that’s where their mind went probably says more about them than it does about the Hagemeyers.

    Either that, or they’re just assholes.

    1. The logic is basically this: If a committee of liberal/progressive donors to the local party leaders did not approve the books, they should not be read by children. The unreviewed books might mention individual freedoms or something. Or so help me, even that sex is biologically determined.

  10. “Book-Burner Bobbie” never would’ve called the cops if the layman-librarians were white.

  11. WTF is the deal with people resorting to calling the cops as a first instinct lately?
    I was involved in a car crash with a drunk-driver a few years ago, and while I *did* call the cops, doing so was not actually my first instinct even then. And in my opinion, getting hit by a drunk driver is at least slightly more serious than than a cabinet of books existing.

    1. Consider the viewpoint of the local constabulary; drunks can and do become aggressive, and puke on you, children not so much. Which call you gonna take?

      1. Exactly. Maybe this is why police chiefs push for quality of life ordinances. They keep the cops too busy to get into dangerous situations.

  12. “…such libraries are not allowed because they’re not mentioned in the land-use ordinance.”

    That’s what it says, right there in the article, and if I have to point out what’s wrong, you probably wouldn’t get it.

  13. Nice little library you got there. Be a shame if something were to happen to it. For a small regular donation, we can make sure it doesn’t, like, burn down or such.

  14. But they couldn’t understand why someone had such an issue with their library in the first place.

    Because This Is A Nation Of Laws?

  15. There’s a little free library on the front lawn of an old age home near me. I put a large print erotic novel in it. Old folks gotta smile too.

  16. The only thing worse than the government is your neighbors.

  17. such libraries are not allowed because they’re not mentioned in the land-use ordinance.


  18. I can’t believe there are any Americans left who think they live in a free country.

    1. Sure we’re free. Free to call the police on lemonade stands, mini libraries, bake sales, Halloween displays, cookouts, kids walking down the street…

      What part of ‘See something, say something’ don’t you get?

  19. The neighbors favorite song:

    Is it any wonder I’ve got
    Too much time on my hands?
    It’s ticking away with my sanity
    (I’ve got) too much time on my hands
    It’s hard to believe such a calamity
    (I’ve got) too much time on my hands
    And it’s ticking away
    Ticking away from me
    (Too much time on my hands)
    Ticking away…
    (Too much time on my hands)
    I don’t know what to do with myself…
    (Too much time on my hands)

  20. Whatever happened to “snitches get stiches?”

  21. Would someone explain the concept of “it’s a free country ” again? What a joke.

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