Pop-up libraries have been sprouting up all over the country including in Santa Clarita, but a local set of libraries installed by a Saugus High School student is set to be taken down.
Drake Hougo, 17, set up the libraries on public property without the necessary permits – prompting complaints from residents and a notification from the city to remove the structures by Friday.
“We love it and would love to encourage (the libraries), just not on the public right-of-way or public property without going through the process,” said city spokeswoman Gail Morgan.
Huogo met with city officials last week to discuss the four libraries in question and said he understands the city’s point of view.
“The problem comes in with public property. In order to have that, we have to go through a process,” said Morgan. “Is it ADA compliant? Who is going to clean it up? Who is accepting liability? There is a whole lot of safety, liability and ADA questions that planning (department) staff would go through.”
The first step in getting the pop-up libraries to be considered legal would be setting up a meeting with the city’s planning staff so they could assess where the libraries would be located and who would accept liability, Morgan said.
“This young man, who knows the process – because he worked with us on his Eagle (Scout) project at Central Park – has made a conscious choice to not go through the process with this project like he did with his Eagle project,” Morgan said.
Four years ago as an eighth grader, Huogo pitched the idea of a 12-piece “fitness zone” at Central Park. He secured the approval of the city’s Parks Department and raised funds to install it.
Morgan said Hougo met with city representatives last week and told them he wanted the libraries to sprout up “organically.” City officials encouraged him to find businesses or private properties to house them.
“The city was very respectful and explained it all very well,” Hougo said, “but there was no dialogue about finding a better solution to make it work.”
“I am totally willing to go through the proper process and get permits,” he said. “If they want to do this, then I would love to do it and make it an official part of the city.”
The official Little Free Library organization cautions people to “have the appropriate permissions before installing your Library.”
It cites the example of a city in Kentucky that passed an ordinance to allow the libraries to be set up, with certain parameters. Among them, a library “shall not be located within or overhang the public street right-of-way or any public easement” and “shall not obstruct vehicular, bicycle or pedestrian traffic … (or) aisles or paths utilized by persons in wheelchairs.” In sum, the libraries are intended for private property – with the owner’s permission, and following all local laws.
The Santa Clarita Rotary Club has offered to assist Huogo in finding new places for his libraries and hopes to put one of its own libraries close to one of Hougo’s locations.
“We are hoping to get together with him and some private homeowners who would be willing to house the libraries, if he is interested,” said Rotary Club official Matt Denny.
He said the club also hopes to place one at the bus terminal at Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway.
“You have to go through multiple jurisdictions of government to get the proper permissions and have a steady steward to take care of them,” Denny said. “I don’t think it’s insurmountable you have to just follow the rules.”
There are currently 10 official Little Free Libraries in Santa Clarita, with the Rotary Club slated to install two more over the next month.
“The city has made it very easy and gives approval to anyone who has a private-property library that isn’t on the city’s easement – usually three feet back from the sidewalk,” Denny said. “If you just put a library in the middle of public park, that’s hard for the city because they are responsible for anything that happens in that park.”