The Washington Valley Library sits atop a small hill in Martinsville, unnoticed by the majority of passers-by.
Set back from the street, near the intersection of Washington Valley and Chimney Rock roads, this one-room reading station used to be part of a firehouse before it was converted to a library in the 1950’s. Today, it houses a wide collection of children’s and adult fiction books.
“It’s kind of cute and quaint,” said Carole Juth, one of the main volunteers, as she described the library, which has no bathroom and still operates on the card catalog system.
Despite being seemingly old-school, recent changes have kept it up-to-date.
The Washington Valley Library recently gained a computer with Internet access thanks to money from the state. The computer is open to the public for use.
The library has a book-lease agreement with a company to rent the most popular adult fiction books, which are picked by Betty Beadle, a regular library volunteer, from "The New York Times Best Sellers" list.
“The Washington Valley Library has primarily popular fiction appeal to people interested in best sellers,” said Carolyn Della Sala, the primary worker at the Bridgewater Township Library for the reading station.
The Martinsville Community Center [MCC], located behind the library whose building it owns, plans on renovating the outside, specifically the roof.
Juth said she hopes the renovations will draw attention to the library and get more people to visit. The MCC also plans on improving the landscape around the library.
“The Martinsville Community Center feels it’s very important to keep the library up and running and expand its usefulness to the community,” said Vicki Charles, MCC trustee and one of the liaisons between the center and the library. “The library is one of our top priorities to service and grow.”
The beginnings of these renovations can already be seen. A new sign for the community center and the library is now visible from Washington Valley Road.
The reading station has very strict operational hours, as it is run completely by volunteers like Beadle and Juth. It is part of the Somerset County Library System [SCLS] and open for anyone to use, “not just Martinsville,” said Charles.
Without an SCLS library card, a simple contact information card can be filled out as a substitute. There is no book limit for checking out books and no fines for returning books late.
Since the MCC regained ownership of the building in November 2010, many plans have been created to help improve the library.
“It’s really a grassroots effort for an excellent cause and service to the community,” said Charles.
Charles spoke of possible programs to be held at the library, specifically for children, but said they are still in the idea stage.
The library does plan on housing historic documents of Martinsville in the near future, said Juth.
A book signing of “Martinsville and the Washington Valley” by Patricia Valentine Whitacre is planned to take place there Aug. 20, which Juth said she also hopes will bring people into the library. The book is comprised of old photos of Martinsville with captions not exceeding 70 words.
“We need to bring excitement into the library through the community and more volunteers,” said Juth, adding that she hopes more people will begin to take interest in the reading station.
“I would like to see it as a full functioning reading station,” said Charles, who describes the library as a “historic treasure” and, like Juth, said she hopes it has a bright future.
For more information on the library or to volunteer, contact Juth at 732-469-5666.