The library was founded by a bequest of Mary Louisa Armitt in order that the intellectual activity of Ambleside could be celebrated. The roots of the organisation go back to the Ambleside Book Society which was founded in 1828 and which formed part of the library. On 8 November 1912 the library opened and Hardwicke Rawnsley who was to co-found the National Trust wrote a poem in celebration. The poem starts:
As in some inland solitude a shell
Still gently whispers of its home, the deep,
So from the world of being beyond all sleep
Where those two happy sister spirits dwell...
Beatrix Potter donated books and paintings in her lifetime, and on her death bequeathed her portfolios of natural history watercolours and her personal copies of her "little books". These are on permanent display in an exhibition Beatrix Potter: Image and Reality.
The library of over 11,000 books covers the local and natural history of the Ambleside area and the wider Lake District. It is an important resource for information on notable people connected with the area, including Mary Louisa Armitt, William Wordsworth, Harriet Martineau, John Ruskin, Frederic Yates, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley and Kurt Schwitters.
- Charity Commission. ARMITT LIBRARY AND MUSEUM CENTRE, registered charity no. 1054762.
- Armitt Library collection of oil paintings, BBC, retrieved 14 July 2014
- Armitt Library, independentlibraries.co.uk, retrieved 11 November 2015
- Canon Rawsley, Armitt Museum, Retrieved 12 November 2015
- Frederick Yates, The Armitt Museum, retrieved 13 July 2014