What We Do

With your donations the Arlington Libraries Foundation exists to support the Arlington Libraries’ collections and services, as well as any capital needs above and beyond what the Town provides. We do not support basic operations, but rather work with Library Administration to determine where private support can be best used to ensure that Arlington’s libraries thrive and serve as an invaluable resource in our modern world. Most importantly, it is your support that makes our work possible. Recently the Arlington Libraries Foundation’s grant has provided funding for:

  • Books and digital downloads
  • A new Speed Reads collection at the Fox Branch Library
  • Comfortable and accessible seating in the Teen Space
  • Teen Summer Reading titles and prizes
  • Additional support for the Robbins Children’s Library on Sundays
  • Important conversations around disability rights during Arlington Reads Together.
1835

Dr. Ebenezer Learned leaves $100 in his will to establish a children’s free library. Two years later, the town voted an annual appropriation to expand public library service for all ages.

1877

After occupying various sites, including the old town hall since 1853, the Arlington Public Library rented a former billiards parlor and amusement shooting gallery in the town’s largest commercial block, whose spaciousness enabled it to expand from simply circulating books, to providing a reading room and reference services for patrons.

1892

A gift of Maria Farmer Robbins, in memory of her husband, Eli Robbins, enabled construction of the present building. Its magnificence was unparalleled for a town of Arlington’s population of just 5,600.

1917

A branch library for rapidly growing East Arlington was established in the basement of the Crosby School — the forerunner of the Edith M. Fox Branch Library.

1931

At the height of the Great Depression, Arlington built a distinctive children’s library addition and made significant improvements to the main building, to meet the needs of a town that had grown to over 36,000 residents.

1937

Town Meeting approved the appropriation of $32,000 to construct the Dallin Branch Library. Located on the corner of Park Avenue and Paul Revere Road, the building was named for its leading benefactor Vittoria C. Dallin. Due to economic constraints facing the town, the branch was closed in 1989, and is now home to Arlington Community Media Inc. (ACMi).

1965

Edith M. Fox left a bequest for the expansion of the East Arlington Branch of the Robbins Library. The building was completed in 1969 and renamed for its chief benefactor.

1988

The community comes together to raise over $500,000 towards an addition and renovation at Robbins Library. The $6.7 million project was financed through municipal funds, a state grant and private donations.

1994

Little over a century after its initial construction, a long-awaited addition to the main library opened its doors and rewarded residents who had waited patiently for generations with exceptional spaces for materials and activities. The $500,000 Anne A. Russell Trust Fund for children’s services was a modern-era gift that reflected Dr. Learned’s bequest for young people that had given Robbins Library its start in 1835.

2013

The Arlington Libraries Foundation, with full support from the Library Board of Trustees, is established to take up the annual appeal for additional library materials funds, and to secure and steward the gifts, grants and endowments that provide essential funds toward the library’s current and long-term goals.

Today

Robbins Library is actively pursuing improved spaces for the Robbins Library and the Fox Branch Library to keep pace with the kinds of  library services that Arlington has come to expect in the 21st century.

A New Future for the Fox

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.

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.

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.

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

Charting a New Future for the Fox

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. The Arlington Libraries Foundation will lay the groundwork for a capital campaign supporting the rebuild of this vital community resource.

How Can I Participate?

We want your input!  A community-wide survey will be open until January 17 and we will hold a series of open public forums in January.  The best way to continue to learn more about this work is to subscribe to the library’s newsletter. Upcoming public forums will happen on January 11, January 13 and January 17. Read more on the Robbins website.

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

Library Partners

The Robbins and Fox Branch Libraries are beloved local institutions. As such, they have an amazing cooperative network of Library Partners from which to draw financial support and resources. Responding to priorities outlined by Library Administration and the Board of Trustees, the Arlington Libraries Foundation, Friends of the Robbins Library, Friends of Fox Library, and the Little Fox Shop, Inc. support the library’s mission to create outstanding collections and programs for the Arlington community, and work to ensure their success.

As a fundraising partner, the Arlington Libraries Foundation is a dedicated group of supporters who raise and manage private gifts that increase the library’s impact and reach. The Friends of the Robbins Library, a membership-driven organization which raises funds through member dues and their popular book sale, supports collections, museum passes, programming, furniture, and technology needs above and beyond municipal funding. The Friends of Fox Library raise funds exclusively to support the Fox Branch Library in East Arlington from secondhand sales of donated clothing and merchandise. The Fox & Robbin Shop is a donation-based non-profit and children’s resale shop located inside the Fox Branch Library that benefits the library through the sale of children’s toys, books, and clothing in addition to maternity wear. The seven-member Board of Library Trustees, appointed by the Town Manager, advocates for library services, advises on and approves library policies, and has sole responsibility for the management and expenditure of trust funds. By state law, the Board does not engage in fundraising activities.

FAQs

Why do you need my donation?

As the fundraising arm of the Arlington Libraries, the Arlington Libraries Foundation seeks private support for improvements and enhancements beyond local government funding.

Donations to the Foundation can be in the form of cash gifts, securities, planned gifts, corporate matching gifts and corporate and foundation grants. The Foundation fundraises and provides grants to the library on an annual basis, and on an as-needed basis for larger initiatives or capital expenditures at the libraries.

Doesn’t the town budget cover the Libraries’ needs?

While public funds make libraries possible, they do not cover the entire budget. Donations and community support allow our libraries to flourish. All contributions go to support technologies, programs, materials, and other community needs.

How are funds managed?

The Arlington Libraries Foundation has a fiduciary responsibility to donors. To ensure the efficient use of these funds, the Arlington Libraries Foundation has established a Financial Committee to:

  • Provide financial oversight for the accounting, management and investment of all donations.
  • Establish an internal management control system.
  • Review and approve an annual operating and grant budget before presenting it to the board for adoption, and to library administration for consideration and planning purposes.
  • Monitor the use of restricted funds and establish spending policies for all resources.
  • Establish and implement investment policies for endowed funds to generate returns while preserving initial capital.

The Arlington Libraries Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization registered with the IRS and with the State of Massachusetts.

Is my donation tax-deductible?

Yes! The Arlington Libraries Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization registered with the IRS and the State of Massachusetts. Contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.  Tax ID number 20-4090359.

How does the Foundation differ from Friends groups?

The Arlington Libraries Foundation, The Friends of the Robbins Library and the Friends of Fox Library are all private non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations managed by volunteer boards and provide needed funding for Arlington’s Libraries.

The Arlington Libraries Foundation was created to raise and manage private gifts that increase the library’s impact and reach. We receive planned gifts for the libraries, as well as outright cash and in-kind donations. The Arlington Libraries Foundation has no members but is managed by a board of private citizens selected for the diversity of their talents.

The Friends of the Robbins Library is a membership organization whereby dues, donations and proceeds from the Friends’ used book sales fund special library initiatives and programs. These include the Library of Things, the museum passes program, the library’s beehives and the Reading Room concert series.

The Friends of Fox Library fundraise exclusively for the Fox Branch Library in East Arlington. Funds mainly come from retail sales of used clothing at their 344 Mass Ave storefront.

How can I get involved?

Please reach out to us at 781-316-3290 or email info@arlingtonlibrariesfoundation.org.

How can I make a contribution?

Thank you for supporting literacy, access and learning in your community. You can make a secure contribution online or mail a contribution to Arlington Libraries Foundation, 700 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA  02476. If you have questions, please call 781-316-3290 or email info@arlingtonlibrariesfoundation.org.

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