New library event to collect books for Evanston’s growing Chinese population


Daily file photo by Brian Lee

Saturday’s Chinese Dragon Boat Festival Bilingual Storytime and Book Drive is the beginning of an annual tradition at Evanston Public Library. The upcoming event aims to bolster EPL’s Chinese-language book inventory for Evanston’s burgeoning Chinese population.

Rachel Yang, Reporter

The Evanston Public Library will hold a reading and book drive Saturday to help provide reading materials for the growing Chinese community in the city.

Saturday’s event, the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival Bilingual Storytime and Book Drive, is both a celebration of the Chinese holiday and a way to collect Chinese-language books, said Martha Meyer, an EPL assistant. Families can donate used books, as well as participate in crafts and readings to celebrate the festival.

Wendy Cao, one of the event’s organizers, said the book drive was created to accommodate the recent influx of Chinese residents to the city. She said she has noticed an increase in visiting Northwestern professors from China and generally more Chinese people living in Evanston coming to the library over the past few years.

Cao said she hopes people will donate materials to help the elderly Chinese population in Evanston, who often spend much of their time in the United States looking after their grandchildren while the parents are at work.

Meyer said there are many older Chinese people who come to EPL with their grandchildren, but they often do not have things to do.

“They are here just to babysit for the children,” Meyer said, “I find babysitting for young children to be an isolating and somewhat daunting experience … it’s hard work (and) it can get lonely.”

The library currently also has a limited amount of Chinese-language materials, Meyer said.

“The grandparents came here, they don’t read any English,” Cao said. “We thought reading was very, very important, so how about we gather some Chinese books into the library so at least the grandparents can pick a few books to read to the kids when they were in the library?”

Cao said she hopes some of the families who eventually return to China, particularly visiting professors at NU, will donate their secondhand books to the library, starting a yearly tradition of departing families leaving books to EPL that will eventually lead to a large inventory of Chinese-language books.

Currently, there are no plans to circulate the collected Chinese books in the library for people to check out. Instead, the books will be available as reference-only, meaning EPL visitors can read them in the library but not take them home because entering Chinese-language titles into the library’s English-based system is too difficult, Meyer said.

Wei Guo, a volunteer at the event, said she hopes those who are not Chinese can also attend the event.

“I hope everyone will understand Chinese culture more,” Guo said. “(They) can learn about Chinese customs … spend free time and become volunteers for these events.”

Cao said she plans for the book drive to be an annual event, but added that EPL welcomes donations year-round. She also said she hopes this initiative will help foster a service culture for the Chinese community in Evanston.

“One thing we were missing in China, missing from people, is how to serve others, how to make the community a better place,” Cao said.

Editor’s note: Wei Guo’s quotes in this story were translated from Chinese by the reporter for this story.

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