Public libraries at heart of Minhang's culture renaissance
There are now 30 public community libraries in Minhang District with the construction of 15 libraries completed in 2022.
These public welfare reading spaces now cover the district's 14 subdistricts, towns and industrial zone.
Beginning in 2017, Minhang initiated its project to build public reading spaces in residential areas, industrial parks, office buildings, shopping malls, green spaces, parks and squares to engage more people in reading.
The district selected suitable spaces, then renovated them into unique community libraries featuring additional diverse functions like a coffee service, floral culture, intangible cultural heritage displays, introduction to architectures and foreign language teaching.
"We've been strict with our site selection," said an official with the Minhang Cultural and Tourism Bureau.
For example, the Zhuanqiao branch is adjacent to the Wu Yiren Art Museum and the Qibao branch is in Qibao Old Street.
The libraries also have their own unique designs, the official noted. The Ruihe branch is noted for its Pujiang intangible cultural heritage items and the Xinhong branch highlights its architecture-related reading materials.
Each community library is equipped with an all-in-one machine for book borrowing and returning. By swiping a reader's card of Shanghai Library, readers can borrow books from the venues.
The Yimei Community Library at the former site of Reeb Beer Factory (No. 5, Lane 91, Yimei Road) is noted for its combined vibe of vintage and modernity. Photos recalling the history of Reeb Beer Factory and Meilong Town are hanging on the walls. The 280-square-meter venue boasts a collection of 3,000 culture and humanity books, and 2,000 books for children.
The Wanyuan library in Gumei Road Subdistrict has been cultivated into an urban music culture reading space. Upon entering its doorway, readers are greeted with melodious jazz music and the nutty aroma of coffee. Among its collection of 3,600 books, about 500 are related with jazz music, music theory, or art.
The library, situated in a bustling urban landscape around Metro Line 12's Gudai Road Station, offers people a chance to read a book while drinking a cup of coffee.
The Venture Capital Harbor library, at 41 Hongqiao Venture Capital Harbor neighborhood, is a brand-new trial combining a library service with a floral store.
The 50-square-meter library is situated on the second floor of FlowerPlus, a popular flower retail brand, and has about 3,000 books.
The Sangang Community Library in Maqiao Town stands out among the libraries due to its location and design.
Sangang, or three ridges, was named after three ancient ridges – the Shagang, Zhugang and Zigang ridges – that ran west-north to east-south along Shanghai's ancient coastline before it expanded onto land. The Maqiao cultural relics site was unearthed along the ridge area.
In addition to its name, the new library is also noted for its other symbolic regional elements.
At its entrance, a Chinese peony pattern is decorated on a background wall, in memory of ancient Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) calligrapher and Maqiao native Dong Qichang (1555-1636).
Dong bestowed one of his childhood friends a Chinese peony plant. The ancient peony, with a history of about 500 years, is still well maintained at a yard in Wutang Village in neighboring Fengxian District.
The library also provides a dozen pillows with Maqiao lion dance patterns, for readers to rest on. The lion dance pattern, delicately painted by artists, offers an insight into the national intangible cultural heritage of graphics.
The cultural venue, equipped with touch screens, smart learning machines and multifunctional magnifiers, is also elderly friendly.
The Ruihe library in Pujiang Town caters to diverse needs of readers from urban-rural relocation projects and the newly migrant downtown residents through local cultural resources.
It has set up an exhibition hall featuring Shanghai-style culture and Pujiang local farming culture. Items on display include traditional cotton cloths, sachets and coffee packaged with prints of Shanghai proverbs.
The Zhuanqiao library at 728 Guanghua Road is on the first floor of Wu Yiren Art Museum. The library features a glass dome and elements of Chinese calligraphy and carving arts.
The Huacao Community Library in Huacao Town caters to the needs of white-collar workers, expats and international students by introducing about 5,000 books, the majority of them being foreign-language original versions.
In addition to its book lending service, the library will also launch a reading club and the "It's Book O'Clock" bilingual salon. Here renowned experts, editors and intangible cultural inheritors will be invited to deliver lectures. It will also host a series of activities, including story-telling, readers' salon, intangible cultural heritage craftwork making and themed exhibitions.
Some of the community libraries are located in tourist destinations or near commercial facilities such as the Qibao Old Street and the Seoul Night Fair in the Korean Town.
The Xinhong branch at 1122 Ninghong Road features architecture-related reading resources. Its collection of more than 400 books relate to ancient China architecture, the grottos, Shanghai-style architecture and Minhang local architecture.
Readers can also try their hands at assembling miniature models such as the Xi'an Drum Tower, Hall of Supreme Harmony of the Forbidden City and the Longxing Temple in Hebei Province.
On January 14, 15 families were invited to the Minhang Library to read illustrated books together and take a tour of the Minhang District Museum.
It was the first of a series of activities that will be unfolded in the district's community libraries.
The district will later launch its four folk culture reading and tourism routes.
For example, during the Lantern Festival at the end of each Spring Festival, readers will gather at the Xinzhuang Public Community Library and tour around the annual Xinzhuang Lantern Fair, the biggest lantern fair in southern Shanghai.
During the Dragon Boat Festival, which usually falls in early June, they will learn sachet making at the Pujiang Country Park branch, taste glutinous rice-made zongzi (traditional glutinous rice dumplings with different fillings) and tour in the Pujiang Country Park.
In the Mid-Autumn Festival, they will gather at the Sangang branch, reading autumnal classic literature and appreciate at the big bright moon at the Hanxiang Water Garden in Maqiao.
In the Double Ninths Festival, which usually falls in October, readers will drink tea and read poetry at the Zhuanqiao library, and celebrate the area's historic Zhuanqiao Cake Festival at the nearby Tianyuan Park.