Chinese patrons build community
Chinese is one of seven dedicated service language and culture groups at the library. Many library branches have staff that speak Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Vietnamese, Russian, or Spanish. They are working to build collections in these languages. There are also library staff dedicated to serving the culturally specific needs of the Black and Indigenous communities. The language and culture staff members connect with communities around the county to share information about local resources, and provide friendly guidance to navigate opportunities.
May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Month (AANHPI), and some of the library's wonderful Chinese patrons shared their experiences of the library and what they love most about it.
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When Ms. Ren visited the Central Library for the first time, she was impressed with the staff and services available.
When she learned about the English classes through the Adult Literacy Tutoring program, she signed up and asked how much she needed to pay. She was pleasantly surprised when she found out that all library services are free!
Ms. Ren shared that learning English has helped her adapt to being in a new community and new country.
Through the library, she has sought tech help and attended many arts and crafts classes. Her favorites have been those during the Mid-Autumn Festival where patrons learn to make lanterns, origami, dumplings, and calligraphy. Ms. Ren enjoys creating art and has gifted several Chinese knot and string art pieces (pictured) to the library to show her appreciation.
Coming to the library, she has made new friends and found connections to her culture.
“The library is just like a family. When you have difficulties and questions, then you can always ask the library…it is not just about books, it is also about helping the human.”
Ms. Schuchan Zhao and her family enjoy attending Chinese cultural events at Woodstock Library.
At this branch, they’ve connected with Chinese library staff, and while the library was closed during the pandemic, they attended virtual library storytimes.
“Due to Covid, kids do not have many opportunities to learn together, especially those at an early age, having the virtual storytime meeting is really helpful for them, so they can develop reading and learning skills while having fun,” shared Ms. Schuchan Zhao. It was “a great opportunity for the young children to interact, listen to Chinese stories, and do crafts together.”
Ms. Schuchan Zhao and her family also love to attend the Chinese culture festivals and other virtual and in-person activities provided at the library.
“The library provides the opportunity for the Chinese group to celebrate our festivals, share our culture and gather with our community, '' says Ms. Schuchan Zhao.
Her family has also participated in virtual storytimes, and the Summer Reading program. They have been able to enjoy the library as a family and inspire others to as well.
“I would encourage people to apply for a library card, so they can enjoy getting books to read with their families,” says Ms. Schuchan Zhao.
Mrs. and Mr. Lin are a couple who’ve connected with the Chinese language staff at the Central and Midland libraries.
“When we moved to Portland we wanted to come here to learn English. We have a volunteer who teaches us one by one. The library helps us with English, the tutors help us, and today we have about five tutors who have taught us. We always appreciate them for helping us learn English more and better,” says Mr. Lin.
The couple has benefited from the computer technology help, books, and classes available at the library.
“We appreciate the technology help. It helps us learn on the computer if we have problems, they can help us solve this problem. Also on the cellphone, if there is a problem, they can help us resolve it. For the seniors this is really important. As we get older we have a lot of technology so what we learn is from the tech programs and we both appreciate it. After we learn the result, we help other people to resolve the same problem.The first time we used Zoom, we didn't know how to use it. Through the program at the library we learned how to use it and we helped seven or eight people use Zoom,” says Mr. Lin.
“We don’t use the computer often so sometimes I ask about computer problems. Sometimes it might be for my friend. So then I resolve the problem and then tell other people. Thank you for this,” says Mrs. Lin.
They have been library advocates, encouraging friends to use library resources and attend events.
“At the library we can take out books and take them home for reading. There are a lot of Chinese books, so there may be one someone likes and can bring home for reading. The library also has some activities we always enjoy - the Lunar New Years programs, and the Mid-autumn festivals. We also like calligraphy and writing Chinese words,” says Mrs. Lin.
“We enjoy that our Chinese people go to the library. We told more than ten people to go.
We always ask the library what kind of activities the library will have and then we tell our Chinese apartment residents to join this activity. The library always contacts us and then we can tell someone to join this activity,” says Mr. Lin.
Ms. Terri Hsing is a Chinese culture teacher from Taiwan who has taught in public and private schools. Most recently, Ms. Hsing has been teaching free calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting classes for patrons of all ages at the library.
“I’ve taught traditional Chinese culture for over 15 years in the States. Since last year, I’ve been working in partnership with the Multnomah County Library to put together many events. I appreciate that the Multnomah County Library gives me so many opportunities to host cultural events,” says Ms. Hsing.
Ms. Hsing has hosted Chinese classes in lantern painting, dough figurine art, hand-writing spring couplets and more.
“My favorite events are the Chinese calligraphy courses and Chinese painting lessons. Chinese calligraphy includes the history from 5,000 years of history, Confucius philosophy ... It's a rich heritage. We have poetry - and people use calligraphy to write poetry - it’s a beautiful thing to share the poetry and write the calligraphy written with handmade rice paper,” says Ms. Hsing.
Ms. Hsing has made incredible connections with patrons and staff through her programs.
“The library is the best place and way to share culture because it is based on community. If I do cultural sharing, I want people to come and enjoy the program and cultural events,” says Ms. Hsing.
The library is a community hub where people can come together to celebrate their individual heritage and learn about other cultures as well.