On Feb. 3, the Boston Public Library’s new Chinatown branch opened its doors to a community that had been lacking a library for over 60 years.
The long-awaited temporary Chinatown library is located on the ground floor of the China Trade Center, which sits on the corner of Boylston Street and Washington Street.
According to WBUR, Chinatown was home to its own branch of the Boston Public Library up until 1956, when the construction of Interstate 93 led to its demolition. For years, groups such as the Chinese Progressive Association have been advocating for the reinstatement of Chinatown’s own branch of the library. The Chinese Progressive Association’s youth group began to promote the replacing of the Chinatown branch in 2001 by popularizing the need for a new library. Their campaigning techniques involved creating videos and posting them onto YouTube as a means of educating the public about the potential benefits of a new Chinatown branch.
Supporters of the new library branch campaign were given a reason to be hopeful in early 2017 when Mayor Walsh declared in his State of the City address that Chinatown would be the recipient of a temporary library at the China Trade Center until decisions could be made for the installation of a permanent Chinatown branch.
For many of Chinatown’s residents, the new library branch is about protecting the security of a culture in jeopardy. According to the Boston Globe, Boston’s Chinese community has been victim to gentrification and heightened property prices. In 2015, the Globe reported that “working immigrants are being pushed out of downtown neighborhoods close to work and public transportation, while students, doctors, and others move in.”
Jia Rong Li, a student at Harvard University and an active member of previous efforts to install a new library branch in Chinatown, explained to the Boston Globe why the need for a library in Chinatown was critical. Li stated, “This community is shrinking… This is a space where we kind of anchor the community… People who have moved out of Chinatown can still feel a part of it and they can still come and visit.”
According to the Boston Public Library’s website, the new Chinatown Branch provides a number of features including children’s programming, a bilingual staff, and media offered in both English and Chinese.