At a small, round wooden table, four women sit looking through the tattered and worn pages of scrapbooks.
“Look, here you are Katherine,” says Bonnie Chrey. “You were so pretty and young.”
Much like the photographs and the yellowed-newspaper clippings, the women have aged. And so has the library. But that’s a lot of what keeps them together.
In many ways, the Tracyton Community Library is a step back in history. With its Dewey Decimal filing system and its heavy wood card catalogue drawers, the library is far from modern day. But its usefulness will never go out of style, the women say.
“We have kids come in and say ‘where’s your computers?’ or ‘do you have the Internet?,’” said volunteer Perk Morris. “We tell them there are no computers and there is no Internet here, and they say ‘OK,’ and they go find a book.”
The library, which is kept open through donations and volunteers, has plenty of books and DVDs to loan. And it has a lot of books that are for sale. But past that, there are no computers, or e-books or e-readers.
“We don’t consider that to be a problem,” said Morris. “In fact, to us it’s an advantage. There are no lines of people here. And here, you don’t have to wait to get help from a librarian.”
The other women, Chrey, Katherine Smith and Susie White, agree.
“This place is more personal,” said Smith. “There’s more of a community feeling.”
“It’s the best kept secret in Kitsap County,” said Morris.
The library is staffed all by volunteers and is open four days a week. It has an annual budget of about $5,000, most of which comes from the proceeds of book sales and donations. And it has a charming history.
“There’s been some sort of library here in Tracyton since the 1940s,” said Chrey. “There’s been a lot of times when we didn’t think it would remain. But it’s made it.”
A lending library of the Kitsap County Public Library was established in the basement of the Tracyton Church in 1945. Called “the Book Nook,” church members ran it for years, including a summer reading program that came about in 1949.
In 1955, the library moved to a small building that was previously known as the Junior Church Building of the Tracyton United Methodist Church. In 1965, the Tracyton Fire Hall became available and the library was moved there.
The original agreement was nearly $4,000 to buy the building, said Smith, but after a $1,000 payment was made the first year, the building was owned free and clear.
The library remained part of the county library system until 1987 when the Kitsap Regional Library System made the decision to close it. But library supporters rallied and were able to keep the library open as a nonprofit independent library.
In the scrapbook are flyers that were handed out about meetings to “save” the library. There is a letter to the editor from the Central Kitsap Reporter from Jan. 12, 1987, that reads “By Hell or high water, the Tracyton Library is going to stay open.”
“That was the sentiment from those who loved this little library,” said Morris. “And that’s what’s kept it going all these years.”
The library is open to anyone who will fill out an information card, she said.
“It doesn’t matter where you live,” Morris said. “Anyone can use this library.”
Books and DVDs are checked out the old-fashioned way, by writing down the title and the name of the person checking it out. Like all libraries, they have some problems getting books returned.
“We watch it,” Chrey said. “And if you’re someone new, we only let you take a few items until we know that you’ll return them.”
The titles, in both books and DVDs, are as up-to-date as any library. Volunteers purchase books and DVDs as soon as titles are available.
“Sometimes we buy at Costco,” said Morris. “Or Barnes & Noble. They give us the educator’s discount.”
A primary difference from the big libraries, Morris said, is that they generally only have one of each title.
“Still, I read in the paper that a popular book may have 112 holds at KRL (Kitsap Regional Library system), and we will have it sitting on the shelf,” she said.
The library also has magazines, some of which patrons have donated subscriptions for to the Tracyton Library.
The women realize that they are small potatoes compared to other places.
But sometimes that’s just what people need.
“People come here to see their librarian,” Morris said. “They’ll come in and if the person who is usually here is gone, they’ll want to know why. We’re like family here.”
Most patrons just browse the bookshelves, but once in awhile, the volunteers will have to refresh a patron’s memory about how to use the card catalogue.
The volunteers know that the next generation may not feel quite like they do about this library.
“We can hope,” said Smith.
“It won’t be the big guys that will do us in,” said Morris. “If anything it will be that we can’t get enough donations to keep us going.”
While the book sales keep the electricity paid and new books purchased, it’s the big things that worry the volunteers.
Last year, when the building’s roof had to be replaced, book sales, bake sales and a donation from a “Fairy God Mother” got it done.
“But, if our septic were to go, who knows what we’d do,” said Morris.
Those are the things they like to put out of their thoughts. The “husband brigade,” as they call them, do the small things like plumbing, carpet and paint. Once in awhile a Boy Scout earns his Eagle Scout rank with a landscaping project at the library.
And they took a big blow when the Tracyton Elementary School closed five or six years ago, they said.
But they have faith.
“This place has made it through a lot,” said Morris. “I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.”
There’s just too much at stake, said White.
“You can’t go anywhere else and get the lovely quiet that this place has,” she said.
The library is located at 351 NW Tracy Ave., Bremerton, and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The phone is 360-377-3571 and they have a Facebook page.