Edith M. Fox Branch Library
Emily Canniff, Branch Manager and Librarian
Walking into the Edith M. Fox Branch Library, you are greeted by a smattering of fox-themed drawings, posters, signage and even stuffed toy foxes in the main office, if you happen to peek in there. These two foxes are named Fletcher and Sienna, and they accompany the librarians for weekly story-times and sing-a-longs.
It’s not surprising that such an appealing and intelligent animal as the fox would become the mascot for this friendly place but the branch is actually named for a patron, Edith M. Fox, who helped provide some of the original funding to expand a smaller space that the neighborhood had outgrown. The tradition of community residents supporting their beloved library has continued with the Friends of the Fox, an active group of volunteers who raise money to augment funding allocated by the Town to its highly regarded library system.
Emily Canniff is the branch manager at the Fox. Her enthusiasm gives the library a warm feeling and she is very open about how much she enjoys her job: “I don’t want to ever retire. I love being here so much! Families really treasure this library. I see a lot of the same kiddos and grownups every week. They are very loyal, I really get to know them. It’s like a big family here – the ultimate community center. It’s hard to imagine my life without it.”
Emily works with what she calls “a complete dream team! Our staff work together every day to support community needs and one another. I think we have a blast doing our jobs and it shows!” Circulation staffers Laura Faunce and Linda Scoppettuolo are supported by two assistants. Children’s librarian Yvonne Coleman comes in on Fridays. This small crew of well-read women make sure that the Fox remains a central hub and destination for the evolving neighborhood of East Arlington, which has been experiencing a demographic surge of babies and young children in recent years. As a result, the Fox is a busy place. Emily notes; “On sing-a-long days, I’ve counted 39 parked strollers – we call it stroller gridlock! There are at least 130 people attending those events. They always sell out.” Describing the library she continues: “It’s a quaint, tiny library. The people adore it. They’re obsessed, in a good way.”
Professional musicians are brought in to lead the sing-a-longs, but the librarians enjoy reading aloud to an eager audience during Story Times: “It’s the highlight of my week. I prepare a theme...anything from underwear to dragons!” Emily explains, and stories are complemented by songs and craft activities. “It is my greatest hope that Story Time primes kiddos for a life-long love of reading, but also that they get a time to socialize, be themselves, do what makes them happy and of course be silly!”
The Fox is housed in a one-story corner building constructed in the 1970s. Within a large open intergenerational space, areas are dedicated to picture books and early readers; magazines and newspapers; teen books; and a collection of fiction and nonfiction for adults. Computer stations offer access to the internet and a place to do homework. The open space weaves around the librarians’ counter, which has a small stepstool for young readers to climb up and hand over their books or chat with the librarian. A large community room in the lower level hosts diverse programs, from sing-a-longs and girl scout meetings to films and talks for adults.
In the children’s area, the librarians have arranged couches with pillows, bean-bags on the floor, and low desks for toddlers and younger elementary-age children to sit and look through picture books or try readers. Children can check out blocks, puzzles or a game and spread out on the carpet to play. The windows that wrap around the front of this library welcome the light to stream in and warm the space. Art is everywhere. Outside, comical foxes painted in red and blue grin at people passing by. These murals were created by artist Shunsuke Yamaguchi, who lives just down the street and is active with the Friends of the Fox. Inside, large cut outs of Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona and Marc Brown’s Arthur grace the walls above the bookshelves.
Parents of young children can feel isolated at home; many report that the Fox is not just a welcoming social environment for their children. It also gives adults a gathering space where they can meet other parents and catch up with friends.
All in all, the Fox is friendly, inviting and comfortable. The purpose is clear: come in, get a book, and start reading! And while you are at it, meet your neighbors, make some new friends, and discover the community in your neighborhood.