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Chinatown residents advocate for branch library

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“A library is critical resource for the Chinatown community, and the time for a Chinatown Library is now.” This was one of the central messages from the Chinatown Library Community Meeting hosted by the Chinese Youth Initiative (CYI) in partnership with the Chinatown (Lantern) Cultural Center Committee (CCC) on Monday, June 8 at the Josiah Quincy School.

“I grew up going to the Chinatown Library in San Francisco and want my son to be able to have that same opportunity here in Boston’s Chinatown.” Carolyn Rubin, chair of the CCC, a community advocacy group for the Chinatown Library, welcomed attendees to the meeting with a personal story that connected to the community vision of a Chinatown library as a multi-generational and multi-purposed space.

The major service needs presented from focus groups conducted by CYI of youth, parents, and elderly had a central theme of bilingual services, preserving Chinese culture and community history, as well as furthering education and skills. Among some of the spaces that focus group participants wanted to see in a library were community spaces for relaxation and programming, computer access, as well as cultural history rooms. Youth discussed the changing role of modern day libraries from spaces that primarily provide books to spaces that serve multiple generations by acting as a community cultural center, safe space for community gatherings, resource for furthering community members’ higher education preparedness and job training while also providing access to resources for immigrants and access to entertainment and fun.

The Director of Boston Public Library branches, Christine Schonhart, the Mayor’s Chinatown/Downtown Liaison, Denny Ching, and representatives from City Councilors Wu and Flaherty’s offices and State Representative Aaron Michlewitz’s office, attended the community meeting.

Chinese Youth Initiative and the Chinatown (Lantern) Cultural Center Committee hosts concluded by asking for a commitment from the Boston Public Library, the Mayor’s Office and City Council to prioritize a Chinatown Library within next year’s budget. Youth pointed to a feasibility study conducted in 2007 in their introduction and the CCC expressed a need for the Mayor to invest in a follow up to this study through a planning grant for a Chinatown Branch Library in the City of Boston’s capital budget in the upcoming fiscal year.

Youth asked for all attendees to sign a pledge board to express their continued support and commitment to bringing a permanent branch library to Chinatown.

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