Home-based library growing in Cherry Tree
From left, Manuel Sanchez, 9, Dione Byrd, Snow Vann, 12, Allene Teehee and Camden Owl, 12, take part in activities at a home-based library in the Cherry Tree community Dec. 27, 2018. PHOTO BY CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Books line shelves at the newly created Cherry Tree Library, which is based out of the garage of Ramona and Dione Byrd. PHOTO BY CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
CHERRY TREE — Founders of a tiny library in the rural community of Cherry Tree hope their effort blossoms into a popular learning retreat and safe haven for children.
“One day, we seen these kids running around, and I said, you know, let’s pray about it,” Cherry Tree Library co-creator Dione Byrd said. “Let’s make the library for these kids. That way they can come in, read books, get on the computer, play games. Let’s just work with these kids.”
Byrd, a Cherokee Nation citizen, and his wife, Ramona, run the library from their home garage in Adair County.
“One day we found a little plastic bag of stuff like right by the bus stop,” Ramona Byrd said. “A kid could have picked that up. Drugs are really prevalent here. I just want the kids to have a place they can come to, do their homework and relax. People have no idea how much stress these kids are under. They really just want a place to kind of chill.”
Their library idea quickly took root, the couple said, following Facebook posts to spread the message.
“We barely mentioned it, then the next day we had a library,” Ramona Byrd said. “Everybody’s like, ‘I’ve got some books.’ It’s growing every day.”
Open on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, the little library now boasts nearly 1,000 books. The first batch of new books came from author Ann M. Martin and her non-profit foundation, The Lisa Libraries, based out of Kingston, New York. Martin is best known for her “The Baby-Sitters Club” series. Her group donated more than two dozen books valued at nearly $400.
“Really this hasn’t taken any money for us,” Ramona Byrd said. “It’s in our garage and the books are donated.”
So far, the library offers books, magazines, homework assistance, computer access for job seekers, genealogy help and craft parties. Dione Byrd also hopes to one day share his knowledge of the Cherokee language with library visitors.
“I’m really glad with what we’ve done,” he said. “The parents are getting involved in it. It’s good to see that.”
Ramona Byrd said the predominantly Native American community’s nearest public library is located about 4 miles north in Stilwell.
“You would be surprised at the number of people who don’t have gas money to go,” she said. “It’s far for them. There are a lot of people who use that library, but it’s not generally people out here.”
The Byrds are using a free online program to catalog their books. While they “want our books back because these are donated,” the couple is “kind of feeling out” the best timeframe for checkouts, Ramona Byrd said.
“I told the kids they can have three books, keep them for a couple weeks then bring them back,” she said. “A lot brought them back, but there’s some that didn’t. My goal is not so much that I get my books back and my books are taken care of and perfect, because they’re not going to be. The worst thing that’s going to happen is we’re going to end up with a lot of books in our community. To me, that’s a good thing.”
The library’s address is 470010 E. 871 Drive, Stilwell. For more information, visit authorramona.wixsite.com/cherrytree
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