Volunteers are the heartbeat of Tracyton Library

30 years independent of regional system

TRACYTON — For more than 70 years, residents of Tracyton have been able to get a book to read without going to the “big city.”

It’s the Tracyton Library, an independent library that still uses the Dewey Decimal System and heavy, old wooden card catalogues. The small-town community library continues to serve the public, despite not having computers or Internet access.

“Kids come in here and say, ‘Where are the computers? Do you have Internet?,’ ” volunteer Perk Morris said. “We tell them ‘No,’ and they say ‘OK,’ and they go find a book to read.”

That’s the charm of the place, which is housed in an old fire hall. It’s like stepping back in time, except for the fact that the titles — books and DVDs — are as up-to-date as any library’s.

“We buy new books and movies all the time,” volunteer Bonnie Chrey said. “And sometimes people donate new books to us.”

The library is staffed by 14 volunteers and is open four days a week. It has an annual budget of about $8,500, 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,” Chrey said. “There’s been a lot of times when we didn’t think it would remain. But it’s made it.”

It began as a lending library of the Kitsap County Public Library 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 moved there.

The original agreement was nearly $4,000 to buy the building, records show, 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.

The library recently received 501c3 tax-exempt status. The advantage of that is that they can now apply for more grants.

“And businesses are more likely to donate to us, because they can claim it on their taxes,” Chrey said.

The library serves a broad demographic. On a recent Wednesday, visitors included an elderly woman, accompanied by her husband, who came in to get a new book to read; and a middle-aged man who came to look through books that were for sale. The library hosts monthly Kids Day events, a summer reading program, and various public presentations.

The library hosts two-day book sales a couple of times a year and typically makes $300 to $400 each time. “Actually, we will sell any book in here, but our entire second floor is filled with books that are for our book sales,” Chrey said.

Volunteer Katherine Smith, who’s been a Tracyton resident since 1962 who has volunteered at the library weekly since then, was busy counting the amount made in book sales one Wednesday.

“Look, we’ve got $17.60 just today, and it’s not even a sale day,” she said.

Prices are “dirt cheap,” Chrey said: Paperbacks start at 25 cents and hardcover books average about $1, depending on the topic and how new they are. Audio books are $2 to $5, magazines are 25 cents and DVDs are $1 or $2.

But selling books isn’t the library’s main objective; lending them is.

Volunteers aren’t sure how many patrons the Tracyton Library has, but anybody can get borrowing privileges.

“All you have to do is write your name on an index card and write how we can get a hold of you, and you’re set,” Chrey said. “And when you check out a book, you just sign it out on the daily log sheet.”

Like any library, they sometimes have problems getting books returned on time.

“It happens,” she said. “But we will track you down if you don’t bring something back.”

Throughout the years, the library has been the recipient of landscaping and painting by local Eagle Scouts. And a volunteer leads Kids Day activities at 2 p.m. he first Thursday of every month.

“She reads them a story and they do a craft project,” Chrey said. “And she brings them her homemade cookies.”

One of the best things about the Tracyton Library, according to volunteers, is that it isn’t very well known.

“We have people come in here to get a title that we have readily available,” Chrey said. “They tell us that they’ve checked the other libraries and there’s a waiting list of 100 names for it.”

The library is located at 351 NW Tracy Ave., Bremerton, and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Call 360-377-3571 to learn more or volunteer. And check out the Tracyton Library Facebook page.

— Leslie Kelly is special sections editor of Kitsap News Group. Contact her at lkelly@soundpublishing.com

The library uses “old technology” to keep track of its books.

The library uses “old technology” to keep track of its books.

From left, volunteers Bonnie Chrey and Katherine Smith pose near the selection of magazines at the Tracyton Library. (Leslie Kelly/Kitsap News Group)

From left, volunteers Bonnie Chrey and Katherine Smith pose near the selection of magazines at the Tracyton Library. (Leslie Kelly/Kitsap News Group)