Another Milestone for the Westchester Library System!

This week, the Westchester Library System is introducing a new and improved online catalog system. It’s easier to use and provides better search results.  It will also eventually be possible for patrons and librarians to find a book using one search engine, instead of having to look in several different places for print, ebooks, and audiobooks.   We will be seeing many additional benefits of the new Evergreen system in the months ahead.

2019 also marks the 60th anniversary of our cooperative library system.


Happy 60th WLS —   You’re not just getting older.  You’re getting better!

Over the last 60 years, there have been many important milestones in the life of WLS. Here are a few:

1959: 32 libraries in Westchester County established a cooperative system that enabled Westchester residents to borrow books from most of the other public libraries in the county.  Six libraries decided not to become part of the system, citing concern that opening their stacks to non-residents would cause serious depletion of books for their own patrons.  All six eventually joined WLS.

computer1988: Westlynx, a computerized catalog that gave librarians access to a list of titles that were available throughout the county, was introduced. Several well-known Westchester residents participated in radio and poster announcements that promoted the new system including tennis star Arthur Ashe, actors Michael Douglas and Mary Beth Hurt, and director Paul Schrader.

1997: WLS signed an agreement with EBSCO, which gave patrons access to magazines, Facts on File, encyclopedias, and other online databases. Today, there is a whole host of research tools that are available online.

homecomputer31999: The Dynix system made it possible for patrons to search for, and order, books and other materials from their home computers.  This led to huge increase in the number of materials that were requested, and a need for more vans to deliver the materials back and forth.


Since 2000:  Sharing has allowed every library in the system, no matter how small, to offer patrons the same materials that used to be available only in larger libraries .In fact, the availability of a wider array of materials through sharing may be one factor in the ongoing vitality of local Westchester libraries, many of which have renovated, expanded. or rebuilt their facilities in recent years.

(The phrase “You’re not getting older.  You’re getting better.” was originally used in a 1970s Clairol campaign)


November is Native American History Month

Hendrik Hudson Entering New York Harbor, September 11, 1609; painted by Edward Moran, 1892.

This month we pay tribute to the Native American people and their significant contributions to our history and culture. Although the month is dedicated to all native people, the National Museum of the American Indian stresses that native people are not all the same. In their book, Do All Indians Live In Tipis?, they state that “Native people are best understood as thousands of distinct communities and cultures” each of which have “distinct languages, religious beliefs, ceremonies, and social and political systems.”

Here in North Castle,  most of the people who were living in our area prior to the arrival of Europeans were the Siwanoys, who belonged to the larger Wappinger Confederacy. Their legacy is evident throughout town, starting with the name Armonk, which is derived from the Siwanoy word Warramaug, meaning “a good fishing place.”



Other place names  remain with us today. In 1696, Siwanoy Chief (Sachem) Wampus sold 93 acres of land here. His name was later given to Wampus Pond and Wampus Elementary School. Mianus,  North Castle’s Northeastern river, was named for Sachem Mayano, who presided over the sale of land in the Greenwich Connecticut area. The name for Kensico Dam and Reservoir came from Sachem Cockinseko. Coman Hill School is , depending on the source, named either for a Sachem Cohamong, or is another variation of the word for “the fishing place between the hills.”

From 1900-1902, Armonk was the site of several important discoveries of native artifacts. Dr. Raymond Harrington of the American Museum of Natural History led an archaeological exploration of rock shelters in the New York City area, and found that they were particularly numerous in Armonk. Rock shelters were used as inns or camping places as native people traveled from one place to another. The shelter they considered the most interesting was Finch’s Rock House, located on what is now known as Windmill Farm.  A discussion of the many important discoveries that were made at the rock shelters can be found in the North Castle Historical Society pamphlets, which are linked on the library’s website.

Finch’s Rock House, Armonk

The library is a great source for learning about the local history of North Castle, and the Native American people in general. Doris Finch Watson, who was North Castle Town Historian and whose family had a rich history in the area, had written many of the pamphlets.  In her own words, “As we glance toward the hills and streams of our present township, perhaps we should pause a moment to remember those who lived here first, the Indians of North Castle –Our Native Americans.” 


“I’m looking for a really funny movie!”

“What do you recommend?”  Several people have asked me this when I’ve been sitting at the library Reference Desk.  The first time, I was amazed to discover that we have close to 1,000 comedy DVDs in the North Castle library. When a patron and I  started looking over the list, she was quick to point out that some of the movies that the film studios call comedies “don’t sound very funny.”  A movie that had caught her attention was Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston.  It’s about a mother who is suffering from debilitating physical and emotional pain in the aftermath of a car accident that killed her young son.  This “dark comedy” is an interesting movie about grief and healing and is, in fact, one that I would recommend, but it’s not “rolling in the aisles” funny.

It can be difficult to distinguish between the uproarious Robin Williams-style comedies, and more serious films with comic elements that are sometimes called “comedies.”  In addition, much of what people find funny is a matter of personal taste.  Jerry Lewis, who died this past week, was widely thought of as a genius in France, but never achieved quite the same level of acclaim in the United States.

That’s why I was happy to see an online poll where people were asked, “What’s the funniest movie you’ve ever seen?”  I then found another poll where comedians were asked which movies they thought were the funniest.  The films they selected that are in the North Castle collection follow, in alphabetical order.  If you don’t see your own favorite comedy, please add it in the comments!

Continue reading ““I’m looking for a really funny movie!””

June is LGBT Pride Month

Aspen Mays’ Book Sculpture.  This image was used by the Westchester Library System in an ad placed in the White Plains LOFT pride brochure.

LGBT Pride Month is celebrated every year in June  to commemorate the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan. In the early morning hours of  June 28, 1969, police raided a Greenwich Village bar that had a largely gay clientele.  Patrons, who were angry about the frequent raids, fought back and soon a crowd of more than 400 people gathered in the streets. News of the event spread and inspired others to mobilize in support of gay rights.

The Westchester Library System has a growing collection of books with LGBT themes.  For this post, I will spotlight three fiction writers who have made LGBT content an important part of their writing.

Sarah Waters writes historical fiction for adults:


The Paying Guests:  In 1922 London, economics force a widow and her daughter Frances to take in lodgers . Their lives are profoundly changed after they rent to a young couple and Frances has a dangerous clandestine affair with the wife.


FingersmithFingersmith:  Sue Trinity, an orphan raised by thieves, is recruited by a con man to help in his quest to marry Maude, a wealthy heiress.  Sue agrees to pose as a maid to gain Maude’s confidence, but finds herself falling in love with her.


TippingTheVelvetTipping the Velvet:  At a London music hall in 1887,  a male impersonator falls in love with her dresser.




Affinity: Visiting a grim Victorian London prison as part of rehabilitative charity work, Margaret Prior, a woman recovering from a suicide attempt, is drawn in by an inmate who asks Margaret to help her escape.


Continue reading “June is LGBT Pride Month”

The Books Behind the 2017 Oscar Nominations…..

This year’s Oscar nominees include several  movies that are based on books.  If you were captivated by the movie, and want to read the book, or if you liked a book that has been made into a movie, check out this list.   It’s always interesting to compare the two!


The Book: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley.  Five-year-old Saroo, living in rural India, gets separated from his older brother and falls asleep on an empty train parked in the station. Suddenly the train takes off, headed for Calcutta, a city where Saroo can’t speak the language. After living on the street for several weeks he is adopted by a couple from Australia. 25 years later, he uses images on Google Maps to jog his memory and find his way back to his original home.

 The Movie: Lion. Nominated for Best: Picture; Actor in a Supporting Role (Dev Patel); Actress in a Supporting Role (Nicole Kidman);  Adapted Screenplay; Cinematography; and Original Score.  


The Book:  Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. During World War II, the American aeronautics industry hired black female mathematicians to fill a labor shortage.

The Movie:  Hidden Figures.   Nominated for Best Picture; Actress in a supporting role (Octavia Spencer),  and Adapted Screenplay.




The Book:  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  A grumpy man hides a personal loss beneath his short-tempered exterior.  He clashes with new neighbors, a boisterous family whose chattiness leads to unexpected friendship.  This comical and heartwarming book  has been an enormously popular bestseller.

The Movie: A Man Called Ove. Nominated for Best Foreign Film;  Makeup and Hairstyling. In Swedish with English subtitles. *Available  on DVD.



tonysusan2-copyThe Book:  Tony & Susan by Austin Wright. Susan Wright receives a manuscript and a request for feedback from her ex-husband of fifteen years. His novel is called Nocturnal Animals, and it is the violent story of a man whose wife and daughter are murdered.  As she is drawn into the life of the story’s main character, she confronts a devastating parallel darkness from her own past.

The Movie:  Nocturnal Animals. Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Shannon).

Continue reading “The Books Behind the 2017 Oscar Nominations…..”

Celebrate January!

Feeling sad that the holiday season is over?   The North Castle Library can help you make the cold months more enjoyable.

man-reading-by-the-fire1.  Choose a “Snow Read”.  These are books that require more concentration than “Beach Reads.”  When you’re home on a snowy day, it’s much easier to focus on a book than it is when you’re out in the sand and sun.  Maybe there is a classic that you’ve always wanted to read.  You can also check out the Best Books lists that are compiled by The New York Times and NPR.

slateoscar32. Catch up on movies that are generating Oscar buzz. Several of the movies and television shows that were nominated for Golden Globe awards are already out in DVD and are available in the library.  These include Florence Foster Jenkins, Sing Street, The Lobster, Deadpool, Hell or High Water, War Dogs and more!

3.  Embrace a Healthier Lifestyle.  It doesn’t sound like fun, but many people who commit iceskatingto it report feeling much better.  “Dryuary”, the practice of abstaining from alcohol in January or February, is rapidly catching on. Our library has many of the newest books on aspects of healthy living including The 4 x 4 Diet: 4 Key Foods, 4 Minute Workouts, 4 Weeks to the Body You Want by Erin Opria, The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes and  The Mindspan Diet: Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk, Minimize Memory Loss, and Keep Your Brain Young by Preston Estep III.

king34.  Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by learning more about the man who dedicated his life to promoting racial equality.  The library has biographies of King, and many books about the civil rights movement. You can also check out fiction books like The Help and We are all Welcome Here that are set in the civil rights era.  In addition, we have award-winning movies like Selma, 4 Little Girls, The Butler, Mississippi Burning, and All The Way.        

Happy January!        










’tis the season….to read a holiday novel!

 Stressed out during the holiday season?   Unwind while staying in the spirit with a holiday novel!  Here are some of the new December 2016 books:

joanne-fluke-christmas-caramel-murderChristmas Caramel Murder
by Joanne Fluke
During the town’s production of A Christmas Carol, Hannah helps her friend Lisa, who has been implicated in the murder of her husband’s ex-girlfriend.  More than 20 holiday-themed recipes are included.

Winter Stormshilderbrand_winterstorms
by Elin Hilderbrand
The Quinn family’s efforts to reunite for a long-anticipated wedding during the holiday season are overshadowed by a health scare, addiction problems and commitment issues.

Continue reading “’tis the season….to read a holiday novel!”