I read this through ALA’s twitter post. The title really attracts me because the discussion about library and internet has been controversial. In my interviews with Mr.Knight of BPL Chinatown branch, he also talks about this issue, but believed people still need library- as what this article mentions. Thus, it is interesting to read.
I found this last week when writing the print story of my final project. BPL official website has a lot to discover, and they put up lots of data to help my story. This one shows many neighborhood branch projects that BPL is doing. When talking to my interviewees, I found this one helpful.
In the basement of China World Trade Center on 2 Boylston Street, a group of primary school students sat listening stories as a librarian reading.
“Wan an, Zhu Ni Zuo Yi Ge Hao Meng,” the librarian finished reading the final chapter of a unique Chinese fairy tale. The sentence means “good night, wish you have a lovely dream.”
In February, Boston Chinatown finally opened its own public library in 60 years. More than 9,800 people came to visit this new branch of Boston Public Library within a month. The number of its stock of book has increased from 2,500 to 3,200 in a month, and there is a 30 percent of increase of books going off shelves than it was in February.
As Boston Public Library’s newest branch which opened in February 2018, Chinatown branch library has shown the trend of incorporating diversity and different cultures into the city. It joins other branches of Boston Public Library system that offer bilingual readings, books, and programs, such as Spanish, Russian, and French. The Media Relations Specialist, Heather Cho, said that most libraries in the U.S. show the trend of bringing more world languages’ books and becoming more diverse. Like most of those libraries across the country, the BPL is expanding its bilingual offering.
Allen Knight is the Chinatown branch’s librarian. He, like other people in the community, said he was really excited about its opening. Chinatown branch organized 13 programs in a month which attracted around 380 people to come. Librarians promote those by publishing information on social media, sending out flyers to other communities, and talking to people. “We have excellent staff; the patrons are great to work with.” Knight said, “Here in Chinatown, we are happy.”
Knight’s daily job starts with checking emails, the condition of books, devices, and safety issues. He goes over people’s donation requests online, and talks to staff members and his supervisor from BPL main branch at Copley Square about what Chinatown branch needs.
Chinatown has built up regular programs to organize so far. Every Monday, it has programs for the infant to three years old children; Every Tuesday afternoons, it offers programs for elder children. Over the week, approximately 75 children and their families come to Chinatown branch.
Chinatown has not opened any bilingual programs so far. It is looking for some bilingual staff members who can speak Chinese or Cantonese to develop the potential programs. Copley Square branch is also looking for volunteers to help to organize the programs.
“We hope to hire someone in this summer.” Knight said, “ That is what we are working toward.” Although Chinatown branch has not offered bilingual programs yet, Knight has been organizing a special English as Second Language (ESL) conversational group to help the people in the community to learn and practice English.
Every branch of the library system has some friend groups to help get financial support or want to contribute to its development, so does Chinatown branch. They will meet once a month, and sometimes will help sell and buy books for the branch. Knight said that the branch would always keep the classics, but if books were kept on the shelf for years, they would replace them or send to other branches.
Now, there are four to five kinds of Chinese magazines in the branch. It also has DVDs, CDs, and books for young adults in English and Chinese. In the building where Chinatown is located, two ESL schools teach bilingual students. Knight usually invites students and teachers coming down to the branch, read newspapers and books, have a little talk together.
Most of the patrons of Chinatown tend to use laptops and read the newspaper more often than other services that library provides. It has 10 laptops now, and will receive 10 Apple Macs soon. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald are the only two English newspapers that deliver to Chinatown branch every day. One drawback is that it does not provide business journal, but Knight said patrons could search in the database for online resources or available copy from other libraries.
The 1,500-square-foot space is a temporary place for Chinatown branch. BPL plans to build a larger permanent one that can own the building like other branches. The Mayor strongly supports Chinatown searching for a location. “No one knows the date and place, but we will definitely find a new place,” Knight said.
Knight said that people would think the library might face financial difficulties. “But it does
not because Mayor Walsh really cares about the libraries,” he said.
BPL gets the annual budget from the city and state. A whole library fiscal year is from July 1 to June 30, each branch under BPL will receive the budget on July 1 and can spend it monthly buying books and organizing programs. Money can be saved to spend until next months but will be terminated when the fiscal year ends.
Chinatown branch sends requests to Copley Square branch’s Collection Development Department if want to order more books or people donating books to the library. It takes one week to process and gets approval for donation, and three weeks for the department to check with vendors and buy books for certain branches.
Not far from the green line’s Copley Square station, the main branch of BPL system is located in this grand, historic building.
Melissa Andrews, the manager of Boston Public Library’s Collection Development Department, said that there is 16 languages’ collection in BPL system.
Twelve years ago, BPL stopped buying several languages, such as Estonia and some Indian languages because the library’s data showed the usage was very low and many books were falling apart.
But BPL is always considering adding more languages based on information provided by the city of Boston. Andrews said they would include factors, such as who lives in the city, what languages do they speak, and vendors’ availability when choosing new items to make sure BPL has regular books coming in and new materials on daily bases.
The three languages that are in high demand in BPL are Chinese, Russian, and Spanish. Last year, 3,280 items in Chinese, 645 items in Russian, 1,859 items in Spanish were added in. The number of all world languages’ items adding to shelves is 6,526. Staff members who can speak the three languages come to Collection Development Department and help decide what books should buy.
Andrews said that in Adams St. and Connolly branches, many Vietnam items are in high demand; In Brighton and Faneuil branches, people rent more Russian items; Basically in every branch, Spanish items are needed. The Department will balance the community’s need to order new items.
The main branch also keeps some world languages’ books, “We have ten or twenty books, like a small collection for the few patrons that come in so that they can refresh easily.” Andrews said.
This is another story about the opening of Chinatown branch public library. It adds more interviews and dialogues, taking me to the present and know people’s reactions and feelings toward the grand opening.
I like this article from BUns because it is one of the earliest reports covering the opening of Chinatown branch library of BPL.
It mentions that “not all programs are bilingual” when it opened in February, so I will ask the question to see if they add new programs in Chinese now.
It also says that this branch is not permanent, and I will also focus on what is their plan for the future when doing the interview.
Jasmine Xu, a Chines student studying at Boston University, thinks that few people back home ever talk about sexual harassment and assault.
“It is a shame for girls to talk about they are being sexually assaulted,” Xu said. “They would think it is a shame for them, and a shame for their families.”
So, she thinks that it would be unlikely for a strong #Metoo campaign to emerge in China.
The movement against sexual harassment and assault linked to the hashtag #Metoo, has been a major topic of conversation in the US since the Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct allegations in October 2017.
While the awareness of sexual harassment is growing internationally, the pace of the movement in China is slow. The Communist government has reportedly censored terms related to the movement and taken petitions off the line.
So what do Chinese student studying in the US think of the movement?
Several thousand attend Boston University, including Hannah Huang, a freshman who describes herself as a “Queer feminist”.
“It is a very good movement that helps women speak up for themselves and promotes equality,” she said.
She believes that there was progress being made in promoting gender equality in China, but the #Metoo movement was repressed by the government. Still, Huang thinks it is worth noting that the Chinese government took it seriously.
Zilin Wang, a sophomore in International Relations major, said gender inequality is part of Chinese society.
“Those social norms are still prevailing in Chinese society now, so the only way to promote gender equality is to understand why and how those norms form,” he said.
One student from China, Audrey, who asked that her last name not be used, said she had an unwanted sexual experience with a boy from her high school.
“I knew he liked me, but I never agreed to be with him,” she said. When she was a freshman, he came to visit her in Boston.
She said she woke up after drinking with him in a hotel room. She did not remember anything, but he told her they had sex.
Audrey never talked to him or anyone else about it. She said she never thought he was that kind of person. She said was not familiar with the #Metoo movement and said she never realized that was sexual harassment or an assault.
Emma Chen-Banas, the first Committee Chairwomen for MassMutual Women Leaders Network, and Founder and Chairwomen of Asian Employee Resource Group, said that gender issues are global issues. Born and raised in China, and living in the U.S. now, she thinks gender equality has improved in the past decade.
American girls were brought up in a freer environment to speak up, compared to girls in China, she said. Chinese women have some advantages that women in the US do not.
“Many relatives will come to help you during and after you have babies, doing everything to take care of you. But in the U.S., women have to depend on themselves more. They have to cook, buy groceries, etc. Then women will have so much pressure, leading to depression physically and mentally.”
She also talked about gender equality in family from Chinese and American varied in different setting. In the U.S., she said that people were more neutral in solving problems compared to China. They have instilled ideas like paying bills or doing works separately. But in China, the patriarchy and feminism went too extreme, Chen-Banas said.
A boy who grew up in rural part would be very conservative. They would think that women were responsible for having babies, doing laundry, and obeying to their husbands. But for a girl from urban parts, they were somehow too independent and looked down on men.
In China, shortly after Harvey Weinstein’s incident, several students in China stood up and said that they were sexually harassed or assaulted by their professors. A former Ph.D. student, Xixi Luo at Beihang University in Beijing, posted a long letter describing how her advisor Xiaowu Chen had sexually harassed her when she was in school in 2004. After coming to the US, she decided to post the story online. She organized a group called “Candy Hard” with several other women who have been harassed. They were threatened by the professor, but fortunately, in the end, the university decided to dismiss the advisor.
Luo wrote that she posted her letter in the U.S. where laws and institution organizations, universities, and the government had comparatively complete systems can protect women from being sexually harassed. But in China, though the situation was improving, there were no certain laws to punish harassers.
While the #Metoo movement may not be surging in China, the push for gender equality often comes down to individual women.
Jasmine Xu, from Boston University, told me about her family at the end of our interview. Xu’s parents told her that she could work not so hard because marrying the right man was more important. Educated mostly in the Western way, Xu did not agree with her parents. When she came to Boston University, she chose journalism as major. Her parents were furious when knowing it because they think the job is dangerous and exhausting for a woman.
But Xu did not conform, encouraged by the movement, “it is very relatable to my own life,” she said. “My value has been changing by studying abroad and realizing my own value. I love to be part of it.”