In 1938, four volunteers came together to create in a small building on Maple Avenue what is now the North Castle Public Library. The group, which became The Friends of the North Castle Public Library, Inc. ("The Friends"), conceived, constructed, stocked and staffed the Library, which had moved to its current location on Whippoorwill Road, until it was turned over to the Town of North Castle in 1956. In the 1980s, the Friends oversaw a major expansion of the Library building and the addition of the 186-seat theater, Whippoorwill Theater.
The Friends is an organization consisting predominantly of residents of the Town of North Castle in Westchester County, New York. In 1993, The Friends was incorporated as a New York not-for-profit corporation. It is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization, contributions to which are fully deductible. Its mission is as follows:
- To raise funds in order to provide our libraries with programs, equipment and needed enhancements not covered by the budget;
- On occasion, to provide “seed” funding for new programs and activities until they can become self-sustaining;
- To work together with the Library Trustees and staff in order to help bring about the realization of the Library’s long-range plan; and
- To encourage support for, participation in and greater use of our libraries by residents of our community and beyond.
The Friends' programs and activities are administered by its directors, officers and many volunteers. The Friends raises funds to support its goals by producing the annual Armonk Outdoor Art Show and through twice-yearly fundraising appeals, corporate sponsorships and revenues from its various activities. The organization underwrites 100% of all programming presented by the Armonk and North White Plains libraries and provides much of the furnishings.
Since its inception, the Friends have given the North Castle community:
- The original Library building;
- The Library wing, doubling its previous size;
- Whippoorwill Theater;
- Furnishings and Reading Nook for the Children's Room; furniture, stacks, study carrels, fans, computer table and carpet for the Elson Room; furnishings for the Teen Room and staff offices and the new Circulation Desk;
- Outdoor furniture and umbrellas for the North White Plains library deck.
Cultural projects sponsored and funded by the Friends through the years include:
- The Armonk Players productions;
- Sunday Music Concert Series;
- Friday night films;
- Art series;
- Teen programs such as 3D-Printer Workshop;
- A wide range of children's programs;
- Health and wellness programs such as Tai Chi and Chair Yoga;
- Book Clubs;
- Italian language class;
- Bridge, mah jongg, knitting and quilting;
- Programs on finances, health, nutrition and technology.
The Friends' major fundraising event is the annual Armonk Outdoor Art Show. Begun in 1961, the Art Show started as a local show set up in front of the library with paintings hung on snow fencing. The Art Show has since expanded to a 204-booth juried event held on 10 acres at North Castle Community Park, with outstanding artists coming from coast to coast and around the world. With oversight by Executive Director Anne Curran and the Art Show co-chairs, more than 200 volunteers run the Art Show, which for many is a year-long project of organization and implementation. Other volunteers devote themselves to the weekend of the Art Show and the week leading up to it. The Armonk Outdoor Art Show is now one of the most prestigious art shows in the United States and has been ranked among the top shows in the Northeast.
In 2011, the Armonk Outdoor Art Show celebrated its 50th anniversary. A full week of community activities began with a "Run for the Library" and culminated with the Armonk Outdoor Art Show the following weekend.
For more than 80 years, the Friends has remained a vibrant part of the public-private partnership of the North Castle Public Library -- an intellectual, cultural and social center for the community and its Westchester County neighbors.