The North Castle Public Library has been awarded a $135,000 grant for building improvements to its main branch in Armonk. The grant, part of $24 million in capital funds set aside for public library construction and other infrastructure projects in the 2017–2018 state budget, was announced in August by State Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) and State Senator Shelley Mayer (D-Westchester).
The North Castle Library “has put forward innovative plans for improving the infrastructure of their library building,” said Assemblyman Buchwald. “It has been very proactive in making sure they are a 21st century institution.” Buchwald noted that while many libraries apply for grants, the process is very competitive, and not all libraries that apply receive funding. The North Castle library, he said, has successfully positioned itself as an innovator in library spaces and programs.
Additionally, the grants require matching funds from local supporters. “New York State has an interest in supporting libraries where the local community has been part of supporting its library as well; this ensures both state and local dollars go further,” he said.
The grants allow libraries to “expand the critical services they provide for the community,” said State Senator Mayer. “They are centerpieces of our communities in Westchester and throughout the state providing programming for children, seniors, and families.»
Sean Ryan, president of the North Castle Public Library Board, said the funds have been put toward an improvement initiative that was established in 2013 and implemented in 2014. At that time, the library trustees assessed the needs of the community, and put together a wish list of improvement projects totaling more than $1.5 million. This is the fifth grant the library has received from the state, and according to Ryan, the library’s current ‘to do’ list has projects extending into 2020 for both its main Armonk branch and satellite North White Plains branch.
Ryan noted that infrastructure improvements were critical for libraries to maintain the type of programming that is relevant in today’s fast-paced world of new media.
“Libraries are reinventing themselves,” he said. “Just ten years ago they were books on shelves. Now, they are social centers for educational and cultural activities.”
“The North Castle Public Library is thrilled to receive this library construction grant which enables us to renovate spaces dedicated to support our library’s programs for children, young adults and adults,” he added. This support “allows libraries to transform to meet current and future needs of our patrons.”
The North Castle Public Library has seen a dramatic increase in attendance since the improvement projects began. Last year, more than 163,000 people visited the library, and more than 35,000 attended its programs, which is twice as many as attendees recorded in 2012. The library currently runs more than 2,000 programs a year, and ranks third in the county for program participants.
The most recent grant has already been put to good use. A Friends’ Gallery, which will be used for adult programming and as a gallery space, has already been completed. In June, the room was dedicated to the Friends of the North Castle Public Library in appreciation for their contributions to the library. The gallery’s first exhibit featured a historical retrospective of the group, who in 1961 established the Armonk Outdoor Art Show as a way to raise funds for the library. The exhibit chronicled how the show, originally held in a small churchyard, grew to more than 185 artists from around the world. Other gallery shows will feature the artists Natalya Aikens and Doris Mady, woven and pottery art, and local photographers.
The grant also covers the creation of a New Young Adult room that will provide more space for teens to use the library facilities, and a new café offering drinks, light snacks, and a relaxing environment for everyone in the community. The final project covered by this grant is the expansion of the children’s room, where 600 square feet of dedicated program space will be added.
“These grants support library programs that equip children and young adults with lifelong learning and literacy skills,” said Assemblyman Buchwald. “I’m pleased our libraries continue to develop new facilities and programs that enrich our communities.”
For more information on upcoming programs and exhibits, visit www.northcastlelibrary.org.