Tree Trunk Becomes a Little Free Library

The Little Free Library.

The trunk of a 110-year-old cottonwood tree finds a new life as a Little Free Library. (Image: Sharalee Armitage Howard via Facebook)

Sharalee Armitage Howard is a book lover and librarian at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library in Idaho. When the 110-year-old cottonwood tree in front of her house had to be cut down, she decided to preserve the trunk, turning it into a Little Free Library to help people get books into their hands.

Living in an increasingly digital age reading, for many of us, means time spent scrolling through posts on Twitter or checking out our favorite blogs. But in spite of the fact that technology permeates our lives so thoroughly — or maybe because of it — it is hard to beat the satisfaction that comes from sitting down to read a good, old-fashioned, printed-on-real-paper book.

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The concept of the Little Free Library

The first Little Free Library came into existence in 2009 when Todd Bol from Wisconsin built a cute box shaped like a one-room schoolhouse and filled it with books as a tribute to his mother, a teacher who loved to read. Bol put it on a post in front of his home, hoping to inspire a love of reading and build a stronger sense of community. His neighbors loved the idea, and soon he was building more boxes where people were free to take a book or leave a book.

The first Little Free Library, a book box shaped like a one room schoolhouse.
The first Little Free Library. (Image: via Little Free

In 2012, Bol and his business partner Rick Brooks made the concept official, co-founding the Little Free Library nonprofit organization. The two took inspiration from Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American philanthropist who funded 2,509 libraries across the English-speaking world.

Bol and Brooks wanted to establish the same number of Little Free Library “branches.” They reached their goal by the end of 2012, and today there are over 90,000 public book exchanges registered with the organization in 91 countries, all facilitating the exchange of books between people and giving readers of all ages increased access to books.

The journey of the tree trunk

Sharalee Armitage Howard felt an attachment to the grand old cottonwood in front of her home and hated to see it go. But then she thought of the Little Free Library.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review, she said: “I was like ‘I really want one of those’ because I use them, my family uses them throughout town. They’re always a fun little surprise, whether you’re going to one because you need new book material and you can’t make it to the library or bookstore or if you stumble upon one and it’s a pleasant surprise to find something that you wanted to read.”

Steps lead up to a cottonwood tree trunk with a peaked roof that has been hollowed out and fitted with a bookcasse, lights, and a little glass door.
The fantastic result of Sharalee Armitage Howard’s efforts. (Image: Sharalee Armitage Howard via Facebook)

She immediately began to envision the project, with little steps going up to the trunk, and after having a tree removal company bring down the cottonwood one section at a time, she hollowed out the remainder of the trunk, added a peaked roof, and placed a bookshelf inside. Then she got an antique window on eBay and turned it into a door and her neighbor installed a light for her. The result was amazing, like a wondrous fairy house brought to life.

And as Sharalee says: “It doesn’t need to be there, it’s unexpected, it’s not required. [The library is] giving the people the joy of stumbling upon something that’s just there to be neat, to be a bonus, to be magical, to add a little bit of joy to somebody’s day,” (Spokesman-Review).

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