Fox branch libraryEdith M. Fox branch library on Mass. Ave. in East Arlington has had record use.

Town Meeting vote in spring may address proposed reconstruction; Select Board endorsed concept in January

After the Select Board unanimously voted to receive an enhancement plan (clicking link will trigger download of this document) late last month to upgrade the Fox Library in East Arlington.

Library Director Anna Litten has laid out a schedule of tours of the Fox; the next one is set for tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 28.  These are scheduled to continue into March and April.

In a Feb. 6 email to Town Meeting members and other interested parties aiming to foster better understanding of conditions and needs at the Fox, Litten reported a series of opportunities to visit. One may see the full schedule of tours and learn more about the grant process at "A New Future for the Fox." 

As part of the library grant application, the town is required to vote to appropriate $150,000 for design and planning; this vote is scheduled for Town Meeting, which is set to begin April 24. Complete reconstruction of the library, possibly to include housing above it, has been proposed to take place in coming years.

'Significant growth'

Library services have been offered in East Arlington since the East Branch Library opened in the Crosby School on Winter Street in 1917, Litten wrote, adding: "Today, the Fox is a bustling neighborhood library, welcoming 82,481 visitors in FY23." 

The branch library has seen sigificant growth in community use over the past 10 years, she wrote in the email message. Circulation has grown 196 percent, from just over 41,000 items in 2013 to 121,687 in fiscal 2023. 

At the Jan. 22 Select Board meeting, Litten said: "Arlington provides excellent library services. The Fox Library is currently seeing more and different kinds of people -- including children and parents, adults seeking workspace, tutors working with students, as well as Thursday’s popular story-reading time. Our libraries are truly a vital part of our community for all ages to thrive and grow.” 

However, many changes are needed, including enhanced accessibility, she and other town officials believe. The library committee started meeting in 2023, and more than 7,000 people attended a series of Fox branch library presentations that year, she said.

“We received an MPLCP [Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program] grant, due in May, that will pay for needed improvements. We also have unique opportunities to address other needs, such as investigating housing options at the Fox Library,” she added.

Adam Delmolino, longtime library trustee and Pct. 10 Town Meeting member, said that Arlington prides itself on being a welcoming community. “However, the building is not always welcoming to visitors, and the restrooms are only on the lower level.” 

Board supports plan

At the Jan. 22 meeting, all five Select Board members spoke in favor of the plan and its recommendations.

Chair Eric Helmuth: “When I first moved to Arlington 17 years ago, I immediately fell in love with both libraries, and I’m still in love with them. I’m now intrigued that we’re looking at housing; it reinforces the mood of togetherness for our community.”

Vice Chair John Hurd: “I like seeing good, concrete steps in the right direction. This library is such an incredible community resource, and I look forward to the work that’ll take it to the next level.”

Steve DeCourcey: “It’s a great community resource but has limitations, such as the front entranceway that not everyone can access. This is an exciting opportunity. Let’s keep the momentum going.”

Len Diggins: “I hope we can make this happen. Don’t let the future happen to you -- make that future what you want it to be. We have a direction in which we’re going.”

Watch ACMi video of Jan. 22 meeting:

 

Diane Mahon: “My hat’s off to all the Town Meeting members who worked part time to keep the library going. The Fox Library has always been as accommodating as possible, and I look forward to what [Director of Planning and Community Development] Claire Ricker comes up with for housing.”


Jan. 17, 2024: Forums on future of Fox library concluded Jan. 17

This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert was published Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. In addition to statements by Select Board members, it includes tour information from Anna Litten, library director. it ws updated most recently Feb. 26.

 

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