150 Celebrating Christchurch City Libraries 1859-2009 RSS feed

Afrikanns launchWorld Languages Collection

Christchurch City Libraries introduced books in languages other than English into its' collection about 60 years ago. As Christchurch has become increasingly ethnically diverse its public library has responded by developing language collections that meet their needs.

European Beginings

The collection began with a small number of French and German books and expanded when Dutch reading material was donated to The Library. The French and German books were used by language students as these were the predominant languages taught in Christchurch at the time. The Dutch collection catered for the many Dutch migrants that had made Christchurch their home following the Second World War.

Since then the collections have moved from an exclusively European focus, reflecting the waves of diverse migrant communities that have made Christchurch their home.

Diversifying Communities

During the 1980s a small collection of Khmer and Vietnamese books was established to meet the needs of the new refugees, or “Boat People” who had arrived from Cambodia and Vietnam en route to Australia. It was also during the 1980s that the Thai, Japanese, Korean and Chinese collections began as migrant numbers grew rapidly. The establishment of the Russian collection post-Glasnost reflected the economic disruptions in the former Soviet-bloc countries.

The Persian and Arabic collections established in 2002 and 2006 respectively were a response to the arrival of refugees that came from Afghanistan, Kurdistan and Iraq fleeing persecution and violent conflicts in those regions.

In 2008 after lobbying from the Christchurch South African community Afrikaans became the 14th language collection. The other languages were Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Persian, Russian and Spanish. These are available at selected libraries in the network. Foreign language magazine subscriptions continue to expand in step with the changing demographics.

Policies and Services

The Library developed a world languages policy to provide a clear framework for developments of the collection.

A new language collection can be established when there is demand for it from a local ethnic group and the Library can verify that a significant need exists. The Libraries also have to find out if there is adequate available stock to provide for different parts of the collection – children’s, adults, fiction and non-fiction. When this has been researched a new collection usually starts with 200 items with an additional 100 items purchased each year.

In 2001 The Library created the position of Ethnic Services Librarian in response to the growth of the collections and Jill Richardson took up the post. She loves her role as Ethnic Services Librarian and the opportunities it has given to establish a much needed library service.

Richardson has built strong links between The Library and the new settlement sector. She works closely with community representatives to ensure the collection serves the needs of their communities in Christchurch and has seen the area grow and develop over the past 7 years. She says the World languages area in the Central Library attracts a constant stream of people and comments,
“It’s a real magnet for many people who love the chance to maintain connections with their home country and culture, it’s lovely to see.”


Library travels with my Father