Sunday, June 25, 2006

Funding Foreign-Language Books

Last week I wrote about the situation at Gwinnett County Public Library in Georgia and their decision to stop buying "thrillers, romance novels or other works of adult fiction in Spanish." I assume this doesn't include books in Spanish on how to learn English. And apparently this isn't the same thing as an English-only policy.

Today's Los Angeles Times picks up the story with the obligatory and predictable quote from an ACLU rep. His assertion is extremely debatable whether illegal immigrants are "part of the community" and libraries should cater to them!

The issue is, of course, services for legal immigrants and does that mean libraries should buy foreign-language books for all languages spoken in their communities.

Buying foreign-language material is a tough case to make, I would think, since it seems every day public librarians cry about tight budgets, forcing hard decisions on what to buy, cutting staff, and so on.

Libraries, of course, can and do serve immigrants in many ways other than by providing books in their native languages--but is that absolutely a necessary piece of the service puzzle?

Have libraries that support these purchases provided books in all languages for all the various languages any residents speak or read? Which libraries have researched their communities and have come up with a master list? Funny questions, huh?

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