Joe Moore and the Book Bike | Bleader

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


You can rest easy tonight, Chicago bibliophiles: Gabriel Levinson can continue giving away free books from his Book Bike in the city’s public parks.

Less than two weeks after an unidentified Chicago Park District official (whom Levinson described as “a nice man”) set off a media frenzy by saying the Book Bike wouldn't be allowed in any city park without a permit, the Chicago Public Library system has bravely stepped in and formed what Levinson calls “a working partnership through which the Book Bike’s presence in the parks has the official sanction of the Public Library, satisfying whatever questions the Park District had raised. The Book Bike remains free to continue its independent activities just as before.”

The partnership staves off Park District demands that Levinson apply for a Special Event Promotion permit, pay $1,155 in hourly fees, and submit to other bureaucratic nightmares.

While I'm glad there's been a sensible resolution to Book-Bike-gate, I must admit to being a little disappointed that Levinson never forced the Park District's hand. What got lost in all the coverage is that nothing really happened after the initial confrontation with the nice man. Levinson hadn't returned to the park, been fined, arrested—anything. What initially loomed as Chicago’s version of a Nuremberg book burning wasn't really any different from a mall cop telling the kids to get their skateboards out of the parking lot this instant or he’s hauling their ass to jail.

Maybe things would've gotten more interesting if the CPL hadn't saved the day and Levinson had taken his cues from 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore instead. At the peak of the controversy, Moore e-mailed Levinson:


A constituent of mine shared your account of your travails with the Park District. Wicker Park is far from my ward, but feel free to set up shop in one of the parks in the 49th Ward (East Rogers Park), and we'll see how the Park District treats you here.

Joe Moore

I must admit, I was really hoping for a three-man showdown, with Levinson, Moore, and a Kafkaesque Park District apparatchik squaring off spaghetti-western-style on a softball diamond. Or maybe something more akin to the ending of The Warriors, with Levinson taking on the Park District at a Rogers Park beach and Moore stepping in to kick ass.