Asian Pacific Americans Do Some Consciousness-Raising-Through Libraries

Article excerpt

The Organization of Chinese Americans, a national nonprofit advocacy organization, takes on a public service project each year that typically has been a conventional one-day undertaking such as aiding a shelter for the homeless or pitching in at a local Habitat for Humanity building session.

This year's project focuses on books, and--with the help of two ALA affiliates--it's taking on a life of its own. A shelf life.

"This time we thought we would get all chapters involved in one project-- the idea of trying to promote literacy and diversity," said OCA National Secretary Jason Fong. "What better place to do this than the library? Libraries are the repository of these ideals."

The objectives of the project, "Campaign to Promote Literacy and Diversity in the Community," are:

* To highlight the contributions of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) to literacy in the United States by providing books and other material by APAs to public libraries nationwide.

* To encourage the public to read more about the APA community and people.

"It started with the idea of individual chapters raising money to help libraries buy books by APAs, but then we got a $12,000 donation from Anheuser-Busch and it just took off," Fong said. "The funds have been distributed to the 20 or so chapters that have become involved in the project, and a number of them have provided matching funds."

A kickoff press conference was held in March at the St. Louis Public Library. About 25 people attended, including SLPL Executive Director Glen Holt.

"A model project [ldots] a brilliant idea"

ALA Executive Director William R. Gordon calls the OCA initiative "a model project [ldots] a brilliant idea."

"We are delighted that OCA has chosen the public library as the vital cultural center to increase knowledge and understanding of the Asian Pacific American community," Gordon said in a statement.

The OCA--St. Louis chapter, in conjunction with the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans, will donate $1,200 to SLPL to buy 100 books by APA authors and will expand on the project by sponsoring a children's essay contest focusing on cultural diversity.

Elsewhere, OCA's San Francisco Bay and San Mateo chapters jointly bought and distributed 27 copies of Judy Yung's book Unbound Voices, a history of Chinese women in San Francisco, to libraries in their respective communities. Along with the libraries, they also sponsored a book signing, slide presentation, and discussion led by the author. Virginia Gee, an OCA--San Francisco Bay board member, called the project "a win-win approach to promoting literacy, learning, and an awareness of the AsianAmerican culture."

The Columbus, Ohio, chapter donated more than 50 books and videos to the Columbus Metropolitan Library in February and featured four APA authors at a reading. The Eastern Virginia chapter has given more than $1,000 to three library systems in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area, and chapter President Leon Wang said the project would be expanded. …