Chinatown Storefront Library

Key Facts:

Project summary: A temporary public library that existed in a vacant shop unit within a community that had been without a library since 1956.

Location: 640 Washington St. Boston, MA. USA

Programme: Lending Library, Internet Access Computers & WiFi, Space for Homework & Children’s Area, A range of community programmes

Initiator: Boston Street Lab

Project Duration: 3 months. Extended into by a month into 2010 (Oct 2009-Jan 2010)

Lead in Time: 6 months

Site Area: 280m2

Client Team: Street Lab and Community of Chinatown

Project Team: Street Lab, with support from 2 paid staff and 40 volunteers from the community.

Funding Sources: Individuals, organizations. Many in-kind donations of services, goods and materials from a variety of sources, including publishers and building material firms.

Project Costs – Build:
Construction Labour£12,000 (paid by student fellowships)
Construction Materials £8,600 (£5,000 donated in-kind)
Moving £300 (supplemented by volunteers)
Equipment and IT £4,000 (computers borrowed)
Space Prep £300 (decoration by property owner)
Permissions £75
5000+ Books £0 (donated)

Project Costs – Operation (4 mos.):
Staffing £4,000
Internet £350
Rent/Utilities £0 (donated by property owner)
Event Insurance £400
Program Supplies £450
Printing £75

Permissions / Permits: Temporary Use permit from City of Boston, Special Event permit from City. All dependent on having insurance.

Local Links: Links with local community both adult and children.

Publicity/advertising: Local advertising, Community outreach programme prior to launch.

Project Evaluation:

Site Details & Ownership: Vacant shop unit owned by Archstone who donated the space for use by the project.

Project Reach / Visitors / Target Audience:
The target audience was the local Chinatown community, as well as those who shopped/worked in Chinatown and simply walked by. The project became a destination for people from outside Chinatown through partnerships with organizations such as the Boston Children’s Museum. All program partners were eager to have the opportunity to highlight their existing programmes in a new, highly visible space, reaching new populations, while also supporting this new cultural space

Feedback from users / staff:
“What they artfully did was create a facility to fill an intellectual need, or a cultural need, and that’s what’s so exciting about the complex thinking of the group that they pulled together.”
Boston Public Library President Amy Ryan, 2009

What next?
The project gained a lot of support from the local community, with over 500 library cards issued and 1,374 books loaned during its open period, 54% of which were in Chinese.

The 5,000 books of the library were donated to the Friends of Chinatown Library advocacy group who expanded their programme to include a community reading room. Boston Street Lab helped set this up by cataloguing and delivering the books. The library website continued to provide information on the advocacy groups efforts.

The furniture of the library, designed and built by Harvard GSD students was donated to neighbourhood facilities for young people (schools and day care centres).

Boston Street Lab produced a detailed report on the library project, which informed subsequent programmes.

In April 2012 residents of Chinatown celebrated the opening of a permanent local library in the Chinatown Lantern Cultural and Educational Centre, the books of the Storefront library have now become part of the permanent collection of the permanent library.

Complementary Programmes: Cafe

Project Website / Further Info: /