It’s a well-known fact that in our rapidly changing world, libraries are under threat.
Funding cuts, lack of support and space, and the advent of new technologies mean that many public libraries have closed down over recent years, often depriving marginalized communities of their primary point of access to knowledge and literature.
Luckily, one librarian, artist and bookbinder in Idaho is bucking the trend, by opening her very own lending library in her front garden.
However, this remarkable little library is no ordinary home for books. Instead of a public building, this library is housed in the stump of a 110-year-old tree.
According to My Modern Met, Sharalee Armitage Howard is a librarian at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library in Idaho, and is passionate about ensuring that local communities, especially children, have access to a ready supply of books.
As a result, when the 110-year old cottonwood tree in her front garden had to be chopped down, she knew exactly what to do with the stump left behind.
This great cottonwood tree had stood in front of the house for more than a century, meaning that it had developed a strong, wide trunk. Although the rest of the tree was diseased, Howard decided to leave the base of the tree in situ, and carve it into a small receptacle for books.
According to My Modern Met, she decided that transforming the ancient trunk into a receptacle for knowledge and learning was a fitting testimony to the beauty and long life of this beautiful tree.
Howard was inspired by the Little Free Library scheme, an initiative that aims to encourage lending and books swaps in local communities. The scheme was set up by Todd H. Bol in 2009, when he created a small box outside his home where his neighbors could take or leave books for other people to enjoy.
This very first library was such a success that Bol went on to form a non profit dedicated to inspiring and transforming local communities through books and reading.
One of the most distinctive aspects of the Little Free Library is the fact that it encourages individuality and quirky, fun ideas. These libraries are designed to be small, perhaps just the size of a cupboard or box, but they can be created in all kinds of places. Members of the local community can donate their own books, or take one from the pile whenever they wish.
According to their website, Little Free Library has been an unprecedented success, with currently more than 75,000 registered libraries that have been set up by local communities around the world.
However, Howard’s Little Tree Library surely has to be one of the most creative and interesting versions of the scheme so far. Instead of simply installing a waterproof box, Howard used her artistic skills to design a beautiful temple to knowledge and learning.
The tree stump is elaborately carved, with a wooden ‘roof’, and a set of stone steps leading up to the green, painted door. A warm, inviting light means that the library attracts attention from the street, and encourages local residents to come and explore this new public service.
The tree is also decorated with wooden panels that feature the names of some of Howard’s favorite books, as well as some classics from American literature.
This creative and unusual project is certainly a wonderful afterlife for the majestic tree that once stood outside Howard’s house.
Moreover, the library offers a real service to the local community, at a time when the power of books to connect and inspire people is needed more than ever.