Every single neighborhood in Boston has a permanent library branch – except Chinatown. The original library was destroyed in 1956 when construction began on the Central Artery highways during Boston’s urban renewal era. It wasn’t until 2001 that high school students from the Chinatown Youth Initiative began a campaign to bring library services back. Their passion and care ignited a community-wide, intergenerational, cross-neighborhood fight that would last for over two decades. After nearly 70 years of its absence and long-standing community activism, Chinatown’s long overdue library is finally being returned. Construction of the new permanent library branch is projected to begin in 2024.
OVERDUE is a documentary film project preserving the story of community struggle, hope, and celebration. We have a unique opportunity to follow the emerging and evolving story of the library as it is built and capture the voices of the community through to opening day. We will gather stories of youth, residents, community leaders, government officials, and other stakeholders who were pivotal in this campaign. We will uncover the mystery of why the library was destroyed in the first place and why it’s taken so long to return the library back to the community. During the course of the project, we’ll witness in real time one of the few remaining public parcels in Chinatown (currently used as a parking lot reserved only for Tufts University and Tufts Medical staff) transform into a new space of hope and possibility. By giving the community the opportunity to tell their own story, OVERDUE aims to bring healing energy to a community that has felt disappointment, despair, and disillusionment throughout this long advocacy campaign. This is not only a story about resilience – it’s about joy, placemaking, and reclamation.
The permanent branch library will be historic as it is being envisioned as a mixed-use development – not only will it be a community space for intergenerational learning as a library, it will also provide 110 units of affordable housing for Chinatown residents. This building will be one of the first of its kind in the entire nation and a potential model to fight gentrification and institutional development within other neighborhoods across Boston and beyond. It is the collective visioning of the youth, elders, community leaders, and Chinatown-based non-profit organizations that brought this idea to life. This land, this building, this community has not had a chance to tell this story yet. We feel that it is our duty to the people who made this happen and for the future generations who will live, work, learn and play in Chinatown to document and preserve this story.
Early development funding generously provided by the Thomas J Ruffen Community Leadership Fund and LEF Foundation.