This article is a translation of the original Chinese article 大溫寶庫亟待救援 from TOHKNews.
The Chinese Community Library Services Association is Canada’s sole private library, servicing the community of Pender Street in Vancouver, BC for over 40 years with its archives of over 40,000 Chinese-language books in its collection, as well as providing a reading and community space for its readers. The books range from classical string-bound volumes, to first edition Jinyong martial arts novels, to children’s literature – a true paradise for the Chinese language reader. Due to budgetary constraints and urban redevelopment, the privately-owned institution faces threat of ceasing operations – a fate that the head librarian Herman YAN Zhong-Zik is trying to avert by fundraising and reducing expenses.
Rejecting the Public System for Keeping the Collections intact
Yan indicated that long before the Richmond Municipal Public Library was established, the City reached out to them with different proposals to integrate their collections into the public library system. Unfortunately, the public system with its management could not ensure that the Chinese collection will be permanently kept in their circulation, as well as be able to take in new donations. Hence, the Chinese Community Library continues to operate at its location to this very day.
Yan and his volunteer staff manage the daily operations of the library, including check-in and out of books, receiving donated books, and managing archival records. The staff is mostly comprised of seniors over 60 years of age, including one at 96 years old. The team also actively participates in the city’s large-scale events to promote the library, as well as organize the annual fundraiser dinner party for their operating budget. Like other libraries, Yan has various interest classes at the library as part of its ordinary event schedule to service its clientele, such as English, calligraphy, and painting classes, computer and smartphone tech support, and even an exercise and hiking group.
Seniors’ choice for Community Service
Students at the Library centre’s English class often praised Ms. Yeung, the instructor from English class for her loving patience as she taught the English letters and words. A Mrs. Wong stated that her confidence is boosted when she can now respond in simple English conversations. Ms. Yeung also believed that education is a mutual process where the challenge is the fun, and hopes that the library can muster the funds for continued operation. Another student in class claimed that the library has already become their other home, where asides from reading, they could also find friends speaking and reading the same languages, finding enjoyment in life previously unknown and rediscovering the anticipation of youth.
Ms. Lee from computer class said that through the course, she learned how to use her smartphone, which in turn could help her become independent and reduce the family members’ workload while shortening the distances between them (as pictured below). Even with elders at 70 to 80 years old, their dedication to learn and harness modern technology shows the will and effort inspired by the opportunities created in this library. The venue also has recently expanded its services to tax filing and interpretation, in hopes of expanding its utility and clientele for the community, and hopes that more people can offer monetary support to continue their dedicated efforts to fill the gap of seniors’ services in the Chinese and Cantonese-speaking community.
In Search of Funding and Affordable Rent
Mr. Yan revealed that if they had sufficient funding, they would search for a permanent site, manned by a professional library staff to create a sustainable library and information management system. This is to be coupled with other community functions such as a shared kitchen, and transportation to provide accessibility for seniors not just for reaching the library, but also for the hiking expeditions that the library organizes.-------------------------------------------------
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