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Library loans list reflects strong cultural diversity in local communities in support of Harmony Day

Almost 50 languages and dialects available to borrow from Australia’s public libraries

Chinese language resources dominated Civica’s list of Australia’s most borrowed community language library resources in 2016

Melbourne, 21 March, 2017 – New research by Civica, Australia’s leading provider of library information and collection management solutions through its market leading Spydus portfolio, reveals that Chinese language books and media are the most popular library resources in Australia that cater to members who consume media in languages other than English. Just under 750,000 Chinese language loans were processed last year. Interestingly, the data also showed that just under 50 languages and dialects are available to borrow in public library collections across Australia.

Civica is announcing its research findings and index results on library resources in community languages to coincide with Harmony Day, a day to celebrate cultural diversity and show social cohesion and inclusion in Australian communities.

Key highlights

Community language resources made up 4.4 percent of all library loans in 2016, according to Civica’s loans index. It also reveals that Vietnamese was the second most popular language behind Chinese, followed by Russian, Greek and Japanese, which rounded out the top five.

Unsurprisingly, the results showed that those libraries located within council areas with high immigrant populations revealed the highest level of non-English library loans. Interestingly, however, the data also highlighted the incredible vastness and variety of language resources available not only in metro libraries with large immigrant populations, but in regional libraries too. For instance, Moreton Bay Regional Libraries in South East Queensland has a collection of up to 20 languages to choose from. Even regional areas such as Noosa processed almost 1,000 community language loans in 2016.

According to the Civica data, not only are the globally most spoken languages included in Australian library collections, but also many languages with less than 10 million speakers worldwide, such as Assyrian, Lao, indigenous Australian languages and African languages including Tigrinya and Obulom.

Commenting on the index results, Simon Jones, Libraries and Education Solutions Managing Director at Civica said: “As the focal point for community participation, it is important that public libraries can offer resources, books and activities which encourage inclusiveness and a sense of belonging for everyone, no matter what language they speak.”

According to Civica’s recent report, ‘The intrinsic value of libraries as public spaces’, the provision of support for migrant and non-English speaking members of the community is viewed by library managers as a core responsibility of local library services.

Inclusivity in practice: Fairfield City Open Libraries 

Fairfield City Open Libraries in NSW topped Civica’s list comparing the ratios of community language resources to total loans, with such loans making up more than one quarter of Fairfield’s total loans.

The majority (52.5%) of Fairfield City’s population were born outside of Australia. The largest groups were born in Vietnam, Iraq, China, Cambodia and Philippines.

According to Luke Carter, Adult Programs and Outreach Support Librarian at Fairfield City Open Libraries, the emphasis of the public library, particularly within multicultural communities, is moving towards community engagement programs that promote wellbeing, creativity, learning and community connections.

“As books collections increasing go digital and bookshelves go online, floor space is being freed up and at the same time we’re needing to explore the answer to the question of ‘how do we get people to physically go to the library if our main drawcard is exclusively online?’ I think the answer to that question is library programs. It’s about ensuring libraries remain relevant to communities,” said Carter.

Fairfield City Open Libraries offer a variety of unique programs to help encourage community engagement, education and better health. For instance, the library runs a number of wellbeing programs for Vietnamese speaking women, such as yoga and meditation, as well as Zumba classes, which attract between 60-70 attendees per class.

The library also runs a number of creative programs, such as classes where people can learn English while creating art. In addition, Fairfield facilitates a range of other initiatives that foster community connections, such as karaoke, which is attended by up to 30 women each week. A lot of the women didn’t know each other before, but are now really good friends, according to Carter.

Providing equitable access for all: Whitehorse Manningham Regional Library Corporation

Like Fairfield, Whitehorse and Manningham councils in Victoria are diverse communities, with over 30 percent of their populations born overseas. The majority of overseas born residents in both areas were born in China, the UK, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Italy and Greece.

Whitehorse Manningham Regional Library Corporation ranks number one on the list of most borrowed community language loans by library, with over 250,000 loans processed in 2016.

“As a public library our role is to be responsive to community needs. It is as such very important that our collections reflect the demographic of the community, it’s about catering to the needs, interests and demands of the population. For example, we hold a Chinese language resource selection day each year to ensure that the large number of Chinese speaking members within our community have the opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions on collection development,” said Katie Norton, Manager of Collections and Information Services at Whitehorse Manningham Regional Library Corporation.

Whitehorse Manningham Regional Library Corporation also runs a range of programs throughout the year that help to offer practical skills and information for the proportion of new residents whose English language proficiency may be limited.

“We hold events such as law information sessions to help new residents to Australia learn and understand their basic legal rights and responsibilities. We also hold workshops on how to find employment and study options in Australia, as well as how to access government services online through MyGov. Next year we are also looking into English tutoring programs and conversation circles,” said Norton.

As part of its values in providing equitable access for all, Whitehorse Manningham Regional Library Corporation utilises Civica’s online library catalogue software which offers language options in both English and Chinese.

“Offering a Chinese language catalogue is a core community service for us as it equips our vast Cantonese language speaking community with the ability to search, read and share information in their native language,” said Norton.