City Puts Brakes on Book Bike

Park District says book lover needs a permit to give away books

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Gabriel Levinson is a lover of books, and for the last two years he says he's spent much of his time trying to spread the love, giving away thousands of free books across Chicago. (Published Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010)

    Gabriel Levinson is a lover of books, and for the last two years he says he's spent much of his time trying to spread the love, giving away thousands of free books across Chicago.

    He does it riding his book bike -- a custom tricycle library -- into the city's public parks and giving away books to anyone who will take them.

    But last weekend, Levinson says a park district employee at Wicker Park asked him to leave because he didn't have a permit to distribute books in the park. It's something Levinson said no one ever told him he needed.

    "I don't know enough about the rules, I guess. I've never been concerned. What matters to me is getting books to people," Levinson said Wednesday.

    But the Chicago Park District is standing firm behind its decision, saying that because of the access to children in public parks, the district needs to know who is setting up shop in the parks and why.

    In a statement, the district says it did "not issue a band on the book bike," but simply want Levinson to "gain proper permission or a permit to distribute books on park property. He has yet to do so."

    "I'm hoping it's just a miscommunication and I feel it is," Levinson said of the permit, which could cost thousands of dollars.

    But the district said Levinson and his book bike likely qualify for a permit fee waiver. Levinson said he has since followed up with the city and is now waiting to hear a response.

    After giving away 3,000 books in two years, Levinson said a little red tape isn't going to stop him from giving.

    "Even if this doesn't stay at public parks, I will find a way to get books to people because that's the point of this," he said.