A new library and hub for Vancouver's Black community has opened in Chinatown

·3 min read
The Vancouver Black Library is focused on books written by people of colour. It will also serve as a community and resource hub.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
The Vancouver Black Library is focused on books written by people of colour. It will also serve as a community and resource hub. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Vancouver has a new library in Chinatown dedicated to books written by people of colour.

Located on Keefer Street near Gore Avenue, the Vancouver Black Library will also serve as a community hub for events like poetry and book readings, performances and exhibitions, says Maya Preshyon, founder and executive director.

"It's a library in the sense that it has books, but it's also a library in that it connects people to people as much as it connects people to information," she told Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

She says the Chinatown location was chosen because of its proximity to Hogan's Alley, the historic Black neighbourhood that was demolished in the 1970s to make room for the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

"Its main focus is to bring people together from the Black community so they can feel welcome and have a space for them, and its other focus is to educate everybody who wants to learn about Black culture in British Columbia, Canada, Vancouver," the 21-year-old said.

"It's just a place for everybody to learn about one another and just become closer to one another through learning each others' experiences."

Six months ago, a crowdfunding campaign for the library helped raise $10,000 in less than two weeks — exceeding its $6,000 goal.

The library, which has a collection of donated books, is also meant to create access to resources for people who might otherwise be unable to afford it.

"Another thing that we're totally focused on is creating opportunities for people to connect with one another and access resources and skill sharing, just so that everybody can have low-barrier access to bigger opportunities," Preshyon said.

"We also plan to lend software to do anything to create anything. We want to lend music equipment and we want to also connect people ... So we are offering all these skill-share programs and subscription usage and school sharing and music and creative equipment at a low barrier, totally free access for anybody who would be otherwise unable to use it."

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Preshyon, an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia, says the library follows the tradition of minority communities who decide they need to collectively do something to address unmet needs.

"It all kind of happened on a whim. It helps that it's related to my degree somewhat in social work and Indigenous studies so community organizing in this way felt relevant. I convinced myself that it was qualified work experience for my program," she said.

Netaremy Brisay, communications co-ordinator for the library, says it helps serve the Black community, which has been underserved.

"Here is where you can come and find specific books, literature and resources that are for Black people that are unheard of in Vancouver and I love the passion behind it because the community has really come to support us because they are really looking for this kind of space."

The Vancouver Black Library is located at Unit #072 on 268 Keefer St., Vancouver.