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The Vancouver Black Library is opening soon and they're celebrating with a double barreled event

The doors to Vancouver's latest library are about to open in Chinatown.

The Vancouver Black Library (VBL) is nearly up and running, with books and programming aimed at bringing the community together.

Founder and executive director Maya Preshyon says the VBL will be open next weekend, running from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays to Sundays in Chinatown. Aimed at providing a central space for the city's Black community to connect, the library will both be a place to borrow books and a hub for programming to take place.

"It is to cater to the needs of the Black community first and foremost," writes Preyshon online "The hope is that one day, the VBL can be a springboard for other initiatives like group therapy, community care efforts in the realm of fundraising, childcare, art exhibitions, poetry readings, bookclubs, zine-making etc."

She tells Vancouver Is Awesome the hope is to hold programming of some sort at the VBL twice a month, with free events funded through grants.

Preshyon first discussed the idea in January and began to organize shortly thereafter. Since then, the group, primarily made up of undergrad students, has fundraised, collected 1,500 donated books, incorporated a not-for-profit organization, found a physical space, and come up with a financial plan to run the whole venture.

Along the way, they've faced a few barriers, including applying for grants and finding a space to rent.

"Vancouver is a very hard place to find space so we're happy to have found something to meet our needs," Preshyon says, noting that she thinks the physical space turned out better than the digital renderings.

While they've fallen short on their target for grants, the community has stepped up to help the VBL come to be.

"The success of VBL and the fact we made it to the opening date so quickly; that's all because of the community coming through," Preshyon says, explaining a lot of it has been little smaller things, like volunteering time and a truck to help move furniture.

"Not to discredit the team, but we are a bunch of undergrads with lofty ideas," she says. "The community really filled in the gaps in every single way."

Celebrating the opening

To celebrate the upcoming opening, expected by Sept. 8, twin events are planned for this weekend, with a grand opening at the library's location in Chinatown on Sept. 2 followed by an after party at Ethiopian restaurant Axum on East Hastings.

"We wanted to plan a party that shifted what people would expect from a library and shift the idea of what people think a library can be," she tells Vancouver is Awesome, adding that many involved with the VBL are also part of the city's arts scene.

The grand opening at the library will include speeches, a ribbon cutting, and art from young Black artists, while featuring music from local Black and queer musicians. Preshyon notes it has sold out.

Tickets may still be available for the after party, with DJs and drag performances.

"The drag community has been so there for the VBL," says Preshyon. "They've been raising money for us; huge sums."

Preshyon notes the after party is also pushing what a library is expected to do, as the group aren't party promoters. She adds they're selling tickets for the after party so they're able to pay the performers.