In its 40th year, the nonprofit Friends of the Library is working to transform the Ruth Keeler Library in North Salem from a community resource into a thriving center for arts and culture.

The Friends are responsible for many of the programs and events that town residents benefit from. This year, the Friends’ two biggest events, Nibble and Nosh and Family Fun Day, will help to raise funds to offer expanded programming.

Nibble and Nosh began last year, an idea by Friends co-president Debbie Rizzo to bring people together over food while celebrating the cultural diversity that exists in North Salem. Participating families prepared food or drinks specific to their heritage or to a culture they felt a strong connection to. Attendees grazed from table to table, sampling food representing fare from the Caribbean to the Far East and everything in between. The event was an instant success; 20 families participated, cooking for a sold-out crowd.

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“It was just mountains of food. You could eat dinner 10 times over,” said Carolyn Reznick, library director. 

This year’s Nibble and Nosh will take place on March 14 from 7-9 p.m. at the library. The Friends hopes to build on the success of last year with another capacity crowd and more culinary delights at this community potluck. The event serves as the kickoff to the Friends’ annual membership drive.

Membership in the Friends is $25 per year for an individual or family. Over the past few years, the Friends have provided the library and its patrons with programs, electronics, museum passes and community events such as Paint Night and author talks. Last fall, the Friends funded a special effects makeup workshop for teens. Programming for tweens and teens is an area of particular emphasis for the Friends, as this is a group for which libraries typically see a decline in attendance. 

To plan programming, Friends board members regularly survey the community to learn which programs would be of interest. They also monitor what’s happening in other public libraries to get ideas for programming that might resonate here. This year, the group is considering adding a makeup and skincare class for teens. The Friends encourage all community members to participate in monthly meetings where they discuss programs and plan for future events. The meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 5 p.m. at the library.

Family Fun Day is the second big event hosted by the Friends of the Library, held each year in July. This is a day for the Friends to give back to the community that so generously supports it. The event has the feel of a block party; last year’s event included a hot dog bar, ice cream truck, inflatable water slide, balloon animals and more. The event is free and entirely volunteer-run, with participation by community sponsors. 

Funds raised by The Friends support initiatives separate from those supported by the library’s own fundraising efforts. The library hosts an annual appeal each year to raise the funds needed to close the gap between what the town of North Salem provides and the balance needed to keep the library operational. While monies raised from the library’s appeal keep the doors open and the lights on, the Friends helps to fund cultural experiences and community gatherings that go far beyond books and periodicals.

The Friends of the Library is always on the lookout for donations of funds, yes, but also of time and ideas. 

“We could not function without them,” said Reznick.