Community languages collections: an exploration of their declining popularity in light of emerging community needs in the City of Marion [slides]

ALIA Library

Wieklinski, Ola

Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference 2018, 30 July - 2 August 2018 Gold Coast: Roar Leap Dare
This conference presentation (PowerPoint slides) accompanied a lightning talk on library services supporting community members from non English speaking backgrounds.
The Marion Library Service is one of 86 library services in South Australia, forming the state-wide One Library Management System (1LMS). Currently the South Australian library consortia provides materials in 22 languages and encourages individual library services to purchase materials in other languages, which are not supported centrally, but are in demand in the  local community. Although over 14% of residents in the City of Marion come from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) and sporadically use Community Languages (CL) collection, it has become apparent that the NESB community prioritises learning English and understanding their new culture, rather than seeking out materials in their native languages in their libraries. The state-wide statistics, supported by locally collected data, highlight the fact that the Community Languages collection has been losing its appeal. In the last 10 years Languages Other Than English (LOTE) loans have plunged by 75% (from almost 400,000 to 100,000). No other collection has experienced such a dramatic drop. In reverse – the popularity of English language courses and attendance at the English Conversation classes organised by library services and Community Centres have increased two-fold. This has prompted the Marion Library Service, with the support of Public Libraries SA (PLSA), to explore other ways in which to support new migrants and their quest to learn English.
The current system, where libraries (due to a multitude of reasons) are not able to offer LOTE collections attractive enough to appeal to the broader NESB Community and the budget is spent on items generating barely a 2.0 turn-over rate, needs to be adjusted. The cost of items in some languages, the overpriced cataloguing cost and the low usage rates have raised questions about the justification for, as well as the viability of, the LOTE collection. The recommendation is not to entirely remove the LOTE collections from Libraries, but to find the accurate balance to support the ongoing reading interest in native languages and the need to learn English and develop understanding of a new culture. By providing English learning titles in digital and traditional format, access to language databases, meeting rooms for English conversation classes and English language tutors, libraries can do more for diversity and inclusivity, than by providing underutilised materials in various languages.


Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association
City of Marion