Tarkington library needs new building

Tarkington Community Library is known as the Little Library on the Prairie.

Tarkington Community Library, known as the Little Library on the Prairie, is facing a crisis. Termites are destroying the log cabin library, eating away the building’s foundation and creating a situation that cannot be remedied.

“The old building is in too bad of shape to keep. It’s not salvageable,” said Librarian and Founder Ruth Stetson.

While the building might look okay to visitors who enter from the front, Stetson said that looks are deceiving. The back of the building tells a different story.

“The damage is not immediately visible,” she said.

Keeping the log cabin free of pests has been an ongoing problem since it was first donated to the library foundation by Koch Pipeline Company in 1998. The cabin was located on a Koch Pipeline property and Stetson requested donation of the building for the purpose of forming a library in Tarkington.

In 1997, the one-acre plot where the library is located, on FM 163 near CR 2268, was donated by the Rice Richardson Foundation, which honors the late J.A. and Neva Rice of Tarkington.

When the log cabin was moved to the site, it was found to be infested with powder post beetles and had to undergo a fumigation tent to kill the beetles. While the beetles are no longer a problem, dry-wood termites now have established a colony.

“They showed up about 3-4 years ago and are continuing to do their damage. We now are in the process of trying to raise money for a new building,” Stetson said.

Tarkington Community Library is known as the Little Library on the Prairie.

So far, friends and supporters of the library have raised roughly $37,000, the bulk of which comes from a mission group in Tyler, Texas. The Rice Richardson Foundation has committed to providing a match of up to $50,000, but the total raised will still fall short of the amount needed for a new building.

“Even $100,000 is not enough to build a new library. We do get support from Tarkington ISD and we apply for grants and receive them from Entergy, Sam Houston Electric and other businesses,” she said.

The Rice Richardson Foundation also is covered the costs for an architect to design the new library.

“A metal building is something that was discussed but I would like to see something that would maybe make it look like a log cabin, perhaps faux logs. Something on that order would create the ambiance for which we have become known. People tell me all the time that we are the friendliest library around,” she said.

Supporters of the library recently had a fundraiser where funds were raised through silent and live auctions, though the amount is only a small part of what will be needed for the new building.

Since the library opened, it has received thousands of visitors and has benefitted from the generosity of the Tarkington community. Recently, an anonymous donor paid for new steps and railings to be installed and hired Vargas Construction to perform the work.

“This library is very important to this community and we have to figure out a way to save it,” Stetson said.

If you would like to make a donation to the Tarkington Community Library, send checks to P.O. Box 1682, Cleveland, Texas 77328. Checks and cash donations may also be dropped off at the library during business hours, which are noon to 6 p.m. on Monday, Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday. The library is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit foundation.

For more information, call 592-592-5136.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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