Tag Archives: Multilingual Collections

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

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.

Readers Advisory for Multilingual Collections

Japanese and Korean booksEver 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!