A New Future for the Fox

Learn more about the Fox Branch Library by attending a 30 minute tour. Join us at the Fox Branch Library at 175 Mass Ave. on any of the dates listed below or watch our video tour.

January/February Tours
Saturday, January 27, 10:00 am
Friday, February 9, 10:00 am
Saturday, February 24, 1:00 pm
Wednesday, February 28, 7:00 pm

March/April Tours
Wednesday, March 6, 5:00 pm
Saturday, March 16, 10:00 am
Thursday, March 21, 12:00 pm
Wednesday, April 3, 6:00 pm
Thursday, April 11, 12:00 pm
Friday, April 19, 10:00 am
Saturday, April 20, 10:00 am

Libraries for all

Public libraries are open to all. At Arlington’s Robbins and Fox Branch libraries, we welcome residents of all ages and abilities to browse and borrow materials of all kinds, from books and ebooks to museum passes and sewing machines, as well as to attend programs and connect with neighbors.  

ACMi’s James Milan discusses the Fox Branch Library with Director of Libraries Anna Litten and Library Trustee Adam Delmolino.

The library’s mission is to “create opportunities for lifelong learning, meaningful connection, and discovery for all.”  At the Fox Branch Library in East Arlington, all currently doesn’t mean all. The Fox Branch is not ADA accessible. Visitors who use mobility devices like wheelchairs face steps entering the building. The lower-level community room is only accessible via a staircase. These barriers to entry prevent the Fox from truly serving “all” in our community. 

Library services have been integral to East Arlington since the first East Branch Library opened in 1917, the Fox Branch Library is currently more heavily used than ever before, serving over 80,000 visitors a year. Library patrons come from across Arlington to attend programs, access library materials, find spaces for remote work, attend community meetings, or shop at the Fox & Robbin Shop. The Fox Branch is an especially popular community gathering spot for families and children, and we have seen a new influx of adults using the space since COVID. 

The beloved and well-used Fox Branch Library deserves a new space that truly meets community needs and is fully accessible to all community members.

Charting a new Future for the Fox

Reading area at the Fox Branch Library

Arlington is currently in the process of applying for a Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program grant, due in May 2024. If awarded, the grant will fund up to 50% of the Town’s eligible costs for rebuilding the Fox Branch and creating a fully accessible library that meets the diverse and expanding interests of our community.

In October 2023, the Town and Library contracted with Library Planning Associates (LPA) to engage the community in listening and learning sessions to identify community needs, envision the library services that will meet those needs, and explore ideas for the rebuilt library’s spaces–a critical step in the Town’s grant application process. Anders Dahlgren of LPA visited Arlington in November 2023. He toured the current library and held focus groups with Town leaders, members of the business and arts community, educators, and others to learn more about community needs for library services and spaces. 

Didn’t the Community Already Discuss the Fox Branch Library?

In the spring of 2017, library administration and trustees announced “Reimagining Our Libraries,” an effort to create a vision for the future of library services at Robbins and the Fox Branch. Hundreds of Arlington residents contributed ideas at two public meetings and through an online survey. Ann Beha Architects used those ideas to produce preliminary conceptual sketches for a rebuilt Fox Branch that were shared with the community.

COVID hit before the project was able to move forward. The post-COVID era brought many changes to our libraries and community including increased foot traffic, new demands on library spaces, and a huge uptick in circulation. We now need to reengage with the community and reconsider our needs in light of recent changes in library use, though the lessons we learned in 2017 will remain part of our thinking as we look to the future for the Fox Branch Library. 

What about Housing? 

As communities across the country face a critical shortage of housing, some towns and cities are beginning to develop public library spaces to incorporate housing. In Chicago, three buildings that co-locate affordable housing and public library branches opened in 2019.  Boston is currently redeveloping the West End Branch Library as a mixed use facility with a public library on the ground floor and housing on its upper levels.  

Here in Arlington, the Library is partnering with the Department of Planning and Community Development to investigate options for co-locating housing at the Fox Branch Library. In October 2023, Arlington received a $77,400 One Stop for Growth grant from the state’s Community Planning Grant Program. The Town has used these funds to contract with the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission to conduct a study of possible options for incorporating housing into the Fox Branch Library plans.  

Library spaces will be the most important element of any redevelopment at the Fox Branch Library location. If building plans do include housing, it will be secondary to building a great library for our community.  

What Happens Next? 

Library staff and Anders Dahlgren, our LPA consultant, will complete the full grant application over the next few months, and the Town will submit it by May 2024. The application requires an approved warrant article that authorizes the Town to appropriate $150,000 for the planning and design phase of the project. Town Meeting Members will vote on this warrant article at the Spring 2024 Town Meeting.  

For additional information, please contact Library Director Anna Litten at alitten@minlib.net