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.