What Do We Provide for Multicultural Patrons? The Impact of Collection Development on Readers’ Advisory for Multicultural Patrons

When it comes to Readers’ Advisory (RA), we can easily fall into routines when recommending titles to patrons. Here, I would like to talk about the impact of collection development on RA for multicultural patrons. From a multicultural services librarian’s perspective, high quality multilingual collections are fundamental to effective delivery of RA for multicultural patrons.

At Greater Victoria Public Library, our multilingual collection is called the World Languages (WL) collection. Early on in my career, we had a small, stale, and dated WL collection at Central Branch. Like many public libraries, budget limitations and the difficulties involved in acquiring materials in other languages prevented us from developing a significant collection. Plus, our WL materials were not fully catalogued and could not be searched in the catalogue. At that time, we barely offered RA for multicultural patrons as we were not confident presenting our “ancient” materials.

Users of multilingual materials have grown dramatically in the past ten years and GVPL has made great efforts to improve the accessibility and quality of our WL collection to better serve the ethnic, linguistic and cultural minorities.  With the continued support of our Cataloguing and Technical Services team, our WL collection has shown significant improvement in the following areas:

  1. Most of the materials have been fully catalogued in both English and in the original language. WL titles can be searched in the catalogue and holds can be placed on items for pickup at any branch. This is a very important improvement, which dramatically increases the utility of these materials.
  2. Materials in major languages are acquired directly from overseas online suppliers at lower costs and with improved turnaround time. Through direct ordering, we are able to acquire most current and popular titles to ensure the collections are relevant to the community’s interests. The turnaround time has been reduced from an average of 3-6 months to 2-3 weeks. Below are some examples of the overseas online suppliers I use to order WL materials:
    • Dangdang (dangdang.com): China’s largest online bookstore for books, CDs and DVDs in Simplified Chinese language.
    • Yesasia.com (http://www.yesasia.com): A Hong Kong online supplier providing current materials in Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages. Its website has multilingual versions and it provides shipment to Canada.
    • Amazon (www.amazon.com): As a mainstream source, amazon.com offers more and more multicultural literature in its original language. In addition, specialized Amazon sources, such as amazon.es (amazon.es), amazon.de (www.amazon.de) and amazon.it (www.amazon.it) are used to order materials in Spanish, German, and Italian, respectively.
    • Raslania (http://ruslania.com): One of the largest online suppliers for Russian materials, it offers shipment to Canada.
  3. WL materials have been expanded to eight branches to improve the accessibility of the collection. The format of the materials has been expanded from book to music CD, DVD, eBook and audiobook. WL collections are housed in a separate and visible area in each branch.

Multilingual materials are getting more current, popular and accessible than ever before at GVPL; however, having a multicultural collection does not in itself constitute a multicultural service. I have added a WL collection information page to the library’s Multicultural Services site to promote the collection. I have also created lists of WL materials in each language (e.g. a German adult book list and a Chinese children’s audiobook list) and posted those lists on local minority community’s e-Forums. I’ve found this an effective way to reach potential readers. WL collections have been promoted through outreach and storytimes as well. Even though every effort has been made to provide fair and equal library service to ethnic, linguistic and cultural minorities, I am still struggling to reach the smaller but widely scattered minority groups and provide materials and services to them. A lot of work still needs to be done in the area of Reader’s Advisory for multicultural patrons.

Aiyang Ma is the Multicultural Services Librarian at the Greater Victoria Public Library

1 thought on “What Do We Provide for Multicultural Patrons? The Impact of Collection Development on Readers’ Advisory for Multicultural Patrons

  1. Chris Pulford

    Our library is rather small and I do not think we have considered having a shelf set aside for different cultures


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