Category Archives: Multilingual Collections

Surrey Libraries Launched Diverse Books Challenge for Staff

piles of books.jpgThe January 2016 What Are You Reading blog post about Reading Challenges inspired us at Surrey Libraries to launch a staff challenge. We had been discussing ways in which we can encourage more diversity in our own reading habits and help our Surrey Libraries Book Blog be more reflective of the Surrey community. Therefore, we launched the Surrey Libraries Diverse Books Challenge for Staff!

This is a fun, optional reading challenge adapted from this tumblr post, which was inspired by the We Need Diverse Books movement. We are encouraging Surrey Libraries staff to read and submit reviews to the Surrey Libraries Books Blog for a chance to win prizes.

Here’s how it works:

1)      Participation is 100% voluntary

2)      Read books fitting one, two, or several of the criteria below. Read one book, read two books, read green books, read blue books. Feel emboldened to read books that fit more than one of the below criteria – intersectionality is encouraged!

3)      Write a short review for the Surrey Libraries Book Blog and email it to Meghan S. Mention that your book was read by participating in the “Surrey Libraries: We Read Diverse Books Challenge” and your name will be entered in a prize draw for a gift card.

4)      A draw slip will be entered for every review.

5)      The challenge is launching March 7th and ends May 8th

6)      Happy spring reading!


Challenge Criteria

  1. Surrey author
  2. Book translated from one of the top 5 unofficial languages of Surrey (i.e. Punjabi, Mandarin, Tagalog, Hindi, or Korean)
  3. BC author
  4. Canadian author
  5. Author of colour
  6. Female author
  7. First Nations author
  8. Graphic novel by a female author or author of colour
  9. Immigrant perspective
  10. LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer) – protagonist or author
  11. Mixed race author
  12. Over age of 70 – protagonist or author
  13. Physical disability or chronic illness – protagonist or author
  14. Positive portrayal of main character living with mental illness
  15. Exploration of a refugee experience
  16. Under 20 but written for the adult market – protagonist or author

We’re excited to hear about people’s diverse reading experiences!

-Meghan S, Naomi E, & Jenny F at Surrey Libraries

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 ( China’s largest online bookstore for books, CDs and DVDs in Simplified Chinese language.
    • ( 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 ( As a mainstream source, offers more and more multicultural literature in its original language. In addition, specialized Amazon sources, such as (, ( and ( are used to order materials in Spanish, German, and Italian, respectively.
    • Raslania ( 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

Topics in RA for Immigrant Readers

This year the interactive section of RA in a Half Day was led by our guest speaker, Keren Dali who provided us an opportunity to share insights, develop conversations, and exchange ideas about serving immigrant and ESL readers.

Discussion Topic #1

In discussing the use of fiction or films set locally, such as in Vancouver, the thought was that this would generate good integrated programming for newcomers, “old-timers” (immigrants already settled into the community), and native residents. Struggles included how to attract the mixed audience, how to evaluate it, and, in smaller communities, finding specific local materials.

The suggestion when talking about inclusive and integrated book clubs was that you could encourage integration by building immigrant reader opportunities into an existing book club. Concerns included worries about choosing materials translated into enough different languages, who would select the titles, could the library have them available in all necessary languages, and how to promote it. Dali encouraged us to accept the idea that libraries will not always be the place where readers get their copy of the book. Discuss this issue with the book club members, because if you buy the book in many languages, many of those books will never again circulate after the book club is finished with them.

Group Discussion

In discussing the solicitation of feedback from immigrant groups including operating multilingual advisory groups, it was easy to list numerous advantages. A multilingual advisory group could crowd source local expertise in literature from various languages, helps the library develop a clearer picture of the need of these readers, mitigates the lack of formal research available on the subject of immigrant and ESL reader communities, and increases awareness of the collections and services libraries offer while building comfort and agency in that section of the community. There were definite concerns over having some local language communities or certain individuals dominate the conversation, a concern that Dali actually stressed on several occasions in her talk. In addition there were concerns about the level of understanding and expertise that the community had in using library tools like BiblioCommons or even in how to analyse the qualities of and recommend reading material.

In thinking about specific ESL communities that our libraries serve, the issue of having staff who speak the language of the immigrant communities was a major theme. Some libraries were struggling to serve smaller foreign language communities when they have a huge dominant foreign language community they have already identified and designed significant services for. A big part of the discussion revolved around how to break into these smaller language groups. Additional concerns revolved around how to assess the literacy level of various local language communities in their own native tongues so that our multilingual collections are representative of their reading level needs.

More Group Discussion

A discussion on multilingual collections including selection, management, and marketing them included some useful suggestions including building community partnership programs, employing pop-up surveys on the website and in house, contacting local adult education programs, and advertising to immigrant families via story time. Concerns included finding a good source for materials purchases, managing the scope including both your staffing and monetary resources, figuring out how to make the contacts, and dealing with a significant lack of knowledge in our communities generally (but yes in immigrant communities especially) about what is offered at libraries. They really encourage perseverance in connecting with these communities and educating them on library collections and services, a point that Dali re-enforced as being critical. Keep talking about your libraries programs and collections and keep working to build trust in with community.

A big thanks to the wonderful RA in a Half Day participants who shared some great conversations and ideas!

Keren Dali Kicks Off RA in a Half Day 2014

Another exciting RA in a Half Day from the BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group kicked off in the Richmond Cultural Centre with on opening welcome from Theresa de Sousa, Librarian at Richmond Public Library. Again this year, BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest  would like to thank Library Bound for sponsoring the event.

Barbara Edwards, Community Relations Librarian at Vancouver Public Library introduced the first speaker of the day, Keren Dali, a researcher who studies the reading experiences of immigrants. Chock full of practical ideas and positive messages, Dali offered a wonderful amount of insight into how immigrants pursue and think about reading for leisure. She emphasized the interest of immigrant readers in reading in English, genre fiction, and not the obvious “easy reader” materials. However, they often do not understand how the North American publishing industry works (assuming, for instance, that hardbacks are unabridged and paperbacks are abridged), nor have experience in the vast array of genres that we have in the English literature tradition. They need guidance in understanding the landscape of English language reading materials from how the publishing industry and libraries work to the basics of genre designations and the big name authors in these genres. Find out what is popular in literature in their native language and help them translate that appeal into the appeal of various English language literature genres.

Communicating with people new to your own native language will produce interaction fatigue (repeating yourself, consciously simplifying your language, slowing your speech, making them repeat themselves). This is natural, reduces with practice, but can inspire anxiety and cause us to try to shorten these transactions or make us abrupt. Warmth, interest, and positivity in are critical in the Readers Advisory transactions as part of these inter-cultural interactions that are building their comfort and proficiency in Canadian society. Dali suggests that we often think of immigrant readers in our libraries as “newcomers” but many are actually “old-timers” who have been in the country a few years and are already adjusting to the culture. They are ready to move beyond materials on the immigrant experience, easy reader materials, and they want to move away from being served as readers with special needs. Above all, she encourages us to “ASK YOUR READERS!” Develop these conversations actively and via workshops, mixed ESL book groups, and immigrant advisory groups so that we are building relationships in this community and helping this population to develop comfort and build connections here.

Next up, Keren Dali will be leading us in an interactive activity on immigrant Readers Advisory services.

RA to Adult Learners

When doing RA, one of the hardest groups to serve are adults who are either learning English as a second language, or native speakers with low literacy skills. People who are new to reading are often intimidated by libraries, so If you are lucky enough to actually get asked about what to read from one of these adults,  you want to be prepared with some good go-to choices! Complicating matters is the lack of authors who write adult-themed books in a high-interest/low-vocabulary style. Luckily, in recent years several publishers have started filling the gaps in this area, notably Good Reads (Grass Roots Press), Quick Reads (Orion), Rapid Reads (Orca) and Oxford Bookworms. Often the books are not just scaled-back versions of popular works, but original fiction and non-fiction written by well known authors specifically for this target audience.PMPL book club

While these books can be expensive relative to other paperbacks, they are still an affordable way to reach a population that is traditionally underserved by public libraries. In the Tri-Cities, the Port Moody Public Library, Coquitlam Public Library, and Terry Fox Library (FVRL) are each running a monthly book group for adult learners, with book sets shared between the three library systems. These are some of the titles we’ve found particularly stimulating for discussion with our participants:

Easy MoneyEasy Money by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. You wouldn’t usually think of finance and budgeting as a fun topic of conversation, but this one surprised us. Our ESL participants were especially interested in talking about how Canadian banks work, credit cards, etc., and Vaz-Oxlade’s perspective as an immigrant to Canada herself is highly relatable.  Money is universal!

Anne of Green GablesAnne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Available in abridged form in a couple of different reading levels and formats, this title is great for groups with varying reading abilities. It also serves as an introduction to Canadian culture and history, with an easy tie-in to movie and tv versions.

ListenListen by Frances Atani. This story about the children of deaf parents resonated with a lot of our ESL participants whose own children often have to translate for them in Canadian society.

Coyotes songCoyote’s Song by Gayle Anderson-Dargatz. An engaging story with elements of native spiritualism.

GenerationGeneration Us: The Challenge of Global Warming by Andrew Weaver. Topical and a good conversation starter. Easy to tie in with newspaper articles, magazines, websites.

Incidentally, sometimes just mixing these titles into a display, especially in summer when people are looking for a “quick read”, they often get picked up by readers of all levels.

The Graphic Novel as a Vehicle for Immigrant & Refugee Stories

Image courtesy of State Library of New South Wales

Image courtesy of State Library of New South Wales

A Museum of Vancouver event titled Uncovering Gold: Chinese histories through graphic novels, video games, and data visualization raised the question for me of where the graphic novel format fits within the context of immigrant and refugee stories. Held this past January, the event in part featured a conversation with author David H.T. Wong about his graphic novel Escape to Gold Mountain.

A story about Chinese immigration to Canada and the United States spanning over a century, as I learned more about it I became curious about the graphic novel as a vehicle for telling immigrants’ and refugees’ stories. Largely situated in the realm of oral storytelling, their stories lend themselves heavily to visual accompaniments – be they photographs or realia in the form of clothes, letters, and the like.

Beyond this tendency for accompaniment by visual representation, Duncan Jepson makes a very interesting observation in his explanation of storytelling as occurs more generally in the context of storytelling across the Asian subcontinent. In “Why Asia is Obsessed with Graphic Novels and Comics”, Jepson points to an inherent tradition of illustration and other forms of visual representation such as puppetry.

Saying that there has been a long-standing custom of reliance “primarily on the power of oral storytelling to communicate wisdom and ideas”, he goes on to say that aids such as puppetry “were used for centuries in villages and towns up and down the continent, from Indonesia to Mongolia, India to Japan”. He further comments that “the use of striking images and graphic representation to accompany oral accounts was part and parcel of everyday Asian life”.

Image courtesy of Musee McCord Museum (through Flickr: The Commons)

Image courtesy of Musee McCord Museum (through Flickr: The Commons)

In more contemporary times, we have the likes of Wong’s novel and Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (the latter entirely illustrated) conveying the enormous potential of the “illustrated text” to relate experiences of leaving one home to make another home in another land.

So where are the other such stories told in this format? More graphic novels from newcomers from other lands, across time, making Canada their new home?

Looking into this subject, I’ve realized that I’ve essentially come across a new project for myself. While there are many written for Young Adult audiences, those published for Adult Collections seem a “slice” of what’s out there. While I have found one other novel –  a story of Irish immigration to the United States, in Derek McCulloch’s Gone to Amerikay – as of yet, I have not found other graphic novels about immigrant and refugee experiences to Canada, or to other parts of the Commonwealth, Europe, or the United States.

I am convinced that they are out there. If any of you know of titles and authors, please share with us.

For the moment, I leave with you with an intriguing partnership between Asia and Europe. Called Lingua Comica,  it “promotes the discovery and the building of new  relationships between Asians and Europeans in the Comics and Graphic Novels field”. While outside of the Canadian realm, it looks exciting and could lead to some discoveries on a more global stage.

Regardless it be relatively new literary territory as far as this particular thematic strand in the graphic novel format or not, for those interested in exploring or indeed in writing and illustration itself, exciting discoveries are likely to be made!

Reading a City’s Past: Exploring Local History Collections with a Look at Vancouver’s Hogan Alley

Cities, towns, and the neighbourhoods within them often make for fantastic discoveries. Imagine walking past the same barber shop, the same shiny new building, or the same empty parking lot day after day. The area is well-known to you. You can easily describe it, you can easily direct people to it or through it.

Yet beyond those brick and mortar buildings or that parking lot sitting vacant year after year, we may have little idea of what was once there or how these very spaces could once have been used radically differently, occupying a radically different space in the cultural life of that neighbourhood.

Histories of our cities and towns make for rich and contemplative reading housed in libraries’ Local History sections. Book displays and guest speakers can be accompanied by our own photos of landmarks in our library’s environs or of unique little side streets nearby. Placing these displays in unusual places where we wouldn’t expect to find Local History material could very well expand the audience for this collection, creating dialogue as well as an increased awareness of the city in which we live.

Image courtesy of Notman photographic Archives - McCord Museum (through Flickr: The Commons)

Image courtesy of Notman photographic Archives – McCord Museum (through Flickr: The Commons)

What are some local areas that you’d like to showcase more in your library?

Vancouver’s Main and Georgia Street viaduct area linking the Strathcona neighbourhood into the city’s downtown core is one such place to celebrate. Known as “Hogan’s Alley”, this area stretched within the vicinity of Union Street to roughly Pender Street, between Gore Street and Columbia Street (City of Vancouver, 2011Lazurus, 2013). Home to the city’s black community from the early 1900s to the early 1970s, the area was a fascinating cultural mix of nightclubs, gambling joints, a Methodist church, cottages, and even horse stables (Lazarus, 2013; Mann, 2010). It was where many black families lived and owned businesses. Its most famous resident was Nora Hendrix, grandmother of guitar whiz, the late Jimmy Hendrix. Yes, Jimi Hendrix.  🙂

The 1972 installation of the Georgia Street Viaduct brought the dismantling of Hogan’s Alley as well as the unique character of this once bustling neighbourhood.

The past two decades have seen an active movement to revive the history of Hogan’s Alley, with literary works, talks, and an annual poetry festival. Most famous of these initiatives was the 2009 opening of the Jimi Hendrix Shrine.

Amongst those leading this revitalization is Wayde Compton. Vancouver Public Library’s 7th Writer-in-Residence, Compton is a local writer and co-founding member of the Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project. He has researched and written extensively about Hogan’s Alley, publishing poetry and essays about this neighbourhood both in its own right and in the context of Vancouver’s urban development. Amongst his works are poetry and short fiction in 49th Parallel Psalm (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1999) and a history collection he edited, Bluesprint (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2003).

Are there parts of your city or town you’re excited to tell others about? Who are the authors who have kept the memory of these places alive? Any ideas for libraries to commemorate them more through Local History or Special Collections? Love to hear about them!