Have you ever heard of a free library? What about one inside of a tree?
When a 110-year-old cottonwood tree in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, needed to be removed, Sharalee Armitage Howard—a librarian, artist, and bookbinder—transformed it into an amazing Little Free Library. Now, instead of providing shade, the tree will share books.
The not-so-little Library, which stands in Sharalee’s front yard, features inviting stone steps, a sloped roof, a large green door, and warm interior and exterior lights. The details of the Library are exquisite, with miniature wooden books—like Call of the Wild and Nancy Drew—trimming the entrance.
The tree was about to be destroyed.
“Someone willing to take the time to give new life to a stump would never cut down a healthy tree to do it,” Sharalee told Bored Panda. “It was dropping HUGE branches for years onto the sidewalk and street (even without windy weather). We were really worried about someone getting hurt. One finally hit our son’s car.”
“The average lifespan of a cottonwood tree is merely 40-50 years… so it got to live more than twice that already!”
But Howard, a book lover who works at her local library in Coeur d’Alene, felt an attachment to the tree. She wanted to give it a new life. She had no idea her creation would not only become the talk of her neighborhood, it would fly across the Internet on social media, reaching people around the world.
Howard figured her “little tree library” — as some now call it — would be eye-catching, but she didn’t expect such a huge response.
“I’m shocked at how many people I’ve heard from these past several months,” said Howard, a 42-year-old mother of four. “It’s really caught on, maybe because it crosses over into a lot of different passions: nature, books, libraries and people who just appreciate community projects.”
She has hundreds of regular book visitors and a continual turnover of titles. So much so that her family hasn’t had to stock the shelves with volumes of their own since it opened last December with several dozen books.
Now that it’s up and running, it’s mostly self-sustaining. Other than straightening the books so the spines face outward, she pretty much leaves the library alone.
“It’s interesting to see what kind of books people add to the shelves,” she said. “I love that even the most obscure titles end up in somebody’s hands.”
Howard’s Little Free Library joined a network of more than 80,000 of them across the United States and 91 countries.
The first Little Free Library was built by the late Todd Bol in Hudson, Wis., in 2009, according to Margret Aldrich, a spokeswoman for the Little Free Library nonprofit organization. The tiny libraries all operate with a common principle: “Take a book, return a book.”
Now that’s what I call a good read!