Building for Diversity: How Public Libraries Can Create Great Multilingual Collections


  • Jen Hill


Multilingual, collection development, public libraries, book selection


In a multicultural and multilingual country like Canada, building quality multilingual collections in public libraries is an important part of providing equitable library service to all community members. However, this can pose a challenge especially for smaller library systems or systems where no staff speak major community languages. Having multilingual staff offers a significant advantage, both in terms of making connections with community members and being able to appropriately select and catalogue materials. Because of this, libraries, MLIS and Library Technician programs should encourage applications from diverse candidates. Even without multilingual staff, libraries can be successful in creating appropriate multilingual collections by following a process that includes community consultation, collaborating with other libraries to share information, identifying good vendors, cataloguing and maintaining the collection, marketing it appropriately, and providing staff training. Through this process a library can get to know the needs of its community, build relationships and gain experience creating and maintaining a quality multilingual collection. A multilingual collection and other services like cultural programming can mutually support each other through advertising to participants. Although it can be challenging, successfully engaging and serving a diverse community is rewarding and will be appreciated. 

Author Biography

Jen Hill

Jen Hill is a part-time MLIS student from Halifax, NS. She has an interest in public libraries, community development, collection management and ESL and Adult Literacy issues. This paper was originally researched and written for the class INFO 5500, Information in Society.  


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