Skip to main content

Bylaw Services orders Ottawa family to move Little Library away from the curb


An Ottawa woman says it was a "sad day" when Bylaw Services told her to move her Little Library back from the curb on her front lawn or risk being charged.

Wendy Chaytor set up the Little Library on the lawn of her Amethyst Crescent home in Stittsville last August, welcoming neighbours to pick a book to read or leave a book for someone else to enjoy.

This spring, Chaytor received a registered letter from the city stating there was a complaint about the small library on her property, and she had to move it back beyond the city's road allowance of 4.3 metres.

"I'm saddened by the fact that someone would choose to complain to By-law rather than talk with us directly to let us know they had a problem with our library," Chaytor said in a post in a neighbourhood Facebook group.

The letter from Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services told Chaytor the library had to move back 14 feet from the curb by June 6.

Chaytor tells CTV News Ottawa the Little Library, which consists of an enclosed case for books on a wooden pole, was set up about four feet from the street.

"We don't quite see how this is damaging a 'highway' as it was set back 1.25 metres from the curb," Chaytor said.

"Far enough that it was not in the way of traffic, or snow plows, but close enough for people to easily access it."

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Ottawa Bylaw Services says it received a complaint on May 9 about the small library erected on the front lawn of the home.

"A Notice of Violation (written warning) was sent to the owner informing them of the complaint, that the library was not permitted on City property, and that it should be moved further back onto the owner’s property," Bylaw Services Director Roger Chapman said.

"BLRS responds to these types of violations on a complaint basis and applies a progressive enforcement model, which includes warnings and working with the defendants to obtain voluntary compliance before a fine is issued."

Chapman says the city's Use and Care of Roads Bylaw prohibit people from "encumbering a highway by any means."

"This includes erecting a library, leaving sporting equipment (basketball and hockey nets), or building raised gardens on the City right-of-way (the portion of City-owned land at the end of one’s property)," Chapman said Saturday evening.

Chaytor said the request to move the library stand 14 feet from the curb "completely befuddles me".

"How are basketball nets that hang directly over the road allowed, but our harmless library that was already set back from the curb be considered to 'Encumber/Damage' highway," Chaytor asked in the Facebook post.

The Little Library stayed up through the fall and winter, "and was not in the way of the snowplows", Chaytor said, adding the area in front of it was cleared of snow for easy access.

"We have never received any complaints from the neighbours about our library," she said on Sunday. "In fact, we often have people stop and thank us for doing such a wonderful thing for our community."

The Little Library offers everything from children's books, to easy readers for elementary students to adult books.

"We created our little library to share our love of books with the neighbourhood.  We have so many books of our own it seemed a shame for them to be gathering dust tucked away on a bookshelf," Chaytor said. "It makes my heart happy to see people stop by and take a book or two - or leave some!"

Coun. Glen Gower tells CTV News Ottawa he will speak with Bylaw officials on Monday to make sure Chaytor can continue to run the library.

"These little libraries are great additions to our Stittsville communities. We have more and more popping up in the city," Gower said. "There's even a mini art gallery on West Ridge in Stittsville. It's something we should be encouraging and not restricting."

Chaytor is hoping to work out a compromise to keep the Little Library near the curb. In the meantime, it is set up on the front porch, with a welcome sign inviting people to still borrow a book or leave a book for others to read.

"It is my hope that a solution can be found so the library can be returned to its original spot near the end of our driveway, or at least kept close enough to the curb so people won't feel intimidated using it."

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Ted Raymond and Colton Praill Top Stories

Stay Connected