Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019Edith M. Fox branch library on Mass. Ave. in East Arlington 

Online survey also closed as of that evening

UPDATED Jan. 17: Managers of the town's libraries, in the interest of making their locations more accessible going forward, recently asked for resident input over the next few days via meetings and an online survey. 

The first of the three planned public forums took place Jan. 11 at Fox Library, 175 Mass. Ave., the next one Jan. 13. The final one was Wednesday, Jan. 17, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

In addition, the libraries conducted an online survey open to all residents in regard to the overall role of libraries in Arlington's communityand requesting that it be completed by Jan. 17.

As well, the town is applying for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program grant; if awarded, half the funds would go to create a fully ADA-accessible library in East Arlington. 

Complete reconstruction of the Fox, to possibly include rental housing above it, is being strongly considered but, per the few tentative timetables already known, likely would not occur before 2026 at the earliest. Authorities have not yet said how long this project might take, how much it would cost nor what the specific plans would be for the Fox's patrons, staff and collection during the interim.

Just south of Arlington, Belmont is already actively engaged in a somewhat similar effort.

In recent weeks, the Fox matter also has been addressed at the Select Board and the Arlington Redevelopment Board.

According to an explanatory page on the town library website, the Robbins and Fox administrators and staff value providing resources to people of all ages and abilities but recognize that the Fox branch library is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities act in not being wheel-chair accessible; there are steps leading to the entrance of the building and there is no elevator to the lower-level community room. 

The town has contracted with the Library Planning Associates (LPA), and library staff and LPA consultants plan to complete the grant application by May. The grant would supply the town $150,000 for the planning and design phase of the project, which town meeting members would then vote on as per a warrant article at the Spring 2024 Town Meeting. 

According to Director of Libraries Anna Litten, the planning and design phase is anticipated to begin in October 2024 and last through December 2025 for libraries who receive this grant. 

The town already has received funds for a different but related study concerning the future of the Fox. Claire Ricker, the town’s director of planning and community development, said last month that the department had received a $77,400 community planning grant from the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Liveable Communities to study the feasibility of developing affordable housing above a new Fox branch library. The study itself is to be performed by the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission.

According to the library website, efforts to redesign Arlington's libraries were proposed initially in 2017, including a townwide survey and public forums. However, the pandemic hit before the project was able to move forward. Staff of the libraries now intend to "reengage with the community and reconsider its needs."

The website also states that since the pandemic, the Fox Branch Library has becom more heavily used than ever before, serving more than 80,000 visitors a year. Residents come to attend programs, access library materials, find spaces for remote work, attend community meetings and shop at the Fox & Robbin Shop, which carries gently used clothing, shoes, books, toys and other items.

"Maintaining library services and access to the wonderful Fox & Robbins Shop is important for the community," Litten wrote in an email to YourArlington earlier in January.  "Alternative plans for those services would be developed during the planning and design phase." Litten also wrote that the extent of the construction time is not yet known.

Dec. 26, 2023: Select Board Dec. 18: Multiple topics handled in final meeting of 2023

This news summary based on information from the Robbins library website, communication with library staff and YourArlington's files, was published Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, and updated later that day with a link describing a somewhat similar library renovation in a nearby community. It was updated Jan. 11, Jan. 13 and Jan. 17, for time references.

This reporting demonstrates your donations at work to support democracy here. YourArlington is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.Your contributions are tax-deductible. Donate here >>