Ever wonder about what’s sitting in the pages of foreign language books gracing our library’s Multilingual Collections? Are the plots of novels layered, is the writing fluid and metaphorical? What do they say about periods of history in faraway lands? Are there memoirs and poetry contained in those pages? Biographies of figures that may have profoundly impacted courses of history in other lands and the cultural pulses of generations?
From a reader’s advisory perspective, how do we as librarians being outside of these linguistic and cultural groups familiarize ourselves with the range of these collections? What can ease the process of our familiarization?
The power of cataloguing is a great tool to this end. We have likely experienced the situation of a patron giving us a title which we ponder over as to the spelling given foreign sounding phonemes. Yet, there you go, entering the words in the author or title fields and: BINGO. “Is this the one?” you ask the patron tentatively, and his face lights up. It’s contagious and there you are, two faces grinning ear to ear, all content. (Okay it may not always be exactly like that, but I’m pretty certain it’s something close!).
Yet there are challenges when libraries are aiming to keep pace with serving populations which speak languages for which they don’t yet have catalogued materials. How can we connect patrons to uncatalogued foreign language materials? Aside from browsing, how is the patron to retrieve them?
As our patron bases become more diverse linguistically, the library is in a unique and exciting position to fill their literary and recreational reading needs. Further, we serve as a welcoming place from which they can browse and borrow movies and music.
Reading “Welcoming New Immigrants into Your Library”, an article by Sanhita S. Roy about initiatives in Queens, New York to reach non-English speaking populations, an idea comes to mind after reading about posters in “harder-to-reach” communities.
What about reading clubs in which patrons from non-English communities are invited to do book, movie, or music talks? If they aren’t confident in their English language skills, how about asking immigrant agencies to partner in translation capacities to take the pressure of the patron? The power of such a gathering can also help in creating “read-alike” displays for these collections. The same can be done with the movies and music (which I see circulating well, particularly on Friday nights!).
Additionally, the power of browsing these collections and borrowing from the music or DVDs cannot be underestimated – thank you very much subtitles for the latter, and what are pretty exquisite tunes for the former. We may be underestimating ourselves in our own abilities to recommend by a movie’s theme, by recognizing actors & actresses, and by melody. Patrons LOVE it and despite not being to speak their language, you’ll have done some reader’s advisory right there.
It would be great to see more research into this aspect of Reader’s Advisory. If you have any suggestions or questions or wouldn’t mind sharing experiences in this area of Reader Advisory, it’d be great to hear from you.
Oh and for moments when you could use a handy tool to translate basic library information, I came across this Multilingual Glossary created by the State Library of New South Wales when I was reading the Multilingual Librarian’s blog. Good idea to bookmark for those moments!