By guest author Librarian Margaret Gilmore

Over the past few years, The DC Public Library and the 1882 Foundation have been working together to ensure that library resources are made accessible and available to Chinatown residents during the closure of the MLK Jr. Memorial Library as it undergoes modernization. Through this effort, the two organizations have found numerous ways to support each other.

Talk Story event from July, which focused on a comparison of the 1882 Exclusion Act with immigration today.

DC Public Library now attends the 1882 Foundation’s Talk Story events: a forum designed to broaden the cultural awareness and historical understanding of the Chinese American experience. For each event, librarians bring relevant materials on the designated Talk Story topic, in addition to popular reads, Chinese language materials, and information about library resources and events. The 1882 Foundation has helped the DC Public Library expand our catalog holdings on Chinese American history and literature by working together on reading lists and items for the library to purchase in the future.

Last spring, DC Public Librarian, Bobbie Dougherty, assisted artist, Shani Shih, of the Chinese Citizens Alliance apply for a Talk Story grant from the Asian Pacific Librarians Association to host free art classes for kids and teens in DC’s Chinatown community, which Shani titled the Chinatown Art Studio. Once the program kicked off, DC Public Library continued to lend support, offer reading lists, and share information with participants about our Summer Reading program and available Teen Council positions with the library.

To honor the 50th anniversary of 1968 this year, The 1882 Foundation and DC Public Library have partnered to host screenings of the documentary, Through Chinatown’s Eyes: April 1968 at various library locations. Our most recent screening brought a diverse audience of about 40 people, many of whom had grown up in the Shaw neighborhood and had stories to share about their memories of that turbulent time period. The film’s director, Penny Lee, joined us for a discussion after the screening and was able to connect this story from our past to the current history we are living as residents of Washington today.

DC Public Library and the 1882 Foundation will both be at the upcoming Mayor’s Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs’ Movie Night on Friday, September 21st and we’ll be celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with the Chinatown community.

Shaw resident shows his high school photo where he and his sister were the only two Chinese Americans in an otherwise all black graduating class.

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