Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla

Language Collections

Last year at the direction of Claire Moore, our then-Assistant Head and now Head of Children’s Services, our library sought to expand our Kids Languages collection.We had a very healthy collection of Spanish picture books, but our other language selections were rather sparse. French, German, and Italian each had about 1/3 of a shelf of titles to call their own, and the remaining languages were shelved together at the end of the collection.

A shelf of Spanish Language materials at Darien Library, courtesy of the author.
A shelf of Spanish Language materials at Darien Library, courtesy of the author.

We began by tripling the yearly budget for the languages collection at the start of the fiscal year. This was followed by a very thorough weed of the existing languages collection. We moved our pared-down collection to a new home in a spot we thought it would get more attention, and got to work beefing up the number of books and materials on the shelf.  We didn’t want to purchase just anything, though. We had weeded a lot of books that were on the shelf merely because they were written in a language other than English. The presence of another language was no longer our only criteria – we wanted to select books for this collection with the same care and attention to review sources that we expended on our other picture book collections.

We found it easy to find great Spanish picture books – they were readily available through our vendor and on the usual websites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A coworker who went to Europe sent back an entire, delightful box of French picture books. We struggled a bit more with finding great German and Italian picture books but eventually located a world-languages bookstore in Brooklyn that (expensively) helped add to the collection. That same bookstore also supplied us with a few new additions in Chinese, Hebrew, and Russian.

Our original goal was to at least double, if not triple, the amount of materials we had available in: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Russian, Arabic, and Hebrew. We hit a wall when it came to purchasing good picture books, a wall partially made up of availability and funding – the harder it was to find a book in the language we were looking for, the more expensive that book turned out to be. We eventually decided to split the book expansion between two years. Last year we focused on the (admittedly more easy to find) French, German, Italian, and Chinese collections and this year plan to focus on purchasing books in Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Hebrew.

New Signage for the Kids Languages Collection, courtesy of the author.
New Signage for the Kids Languages Collection, courtesy of the author.

To supplement all the languages, we purchased Little Pim Playaway Views, as well as new copies of our existing Learn to Speak ____ DVD series. Now each collection has, at the very least, a handful of great picture books, some board books, a set of Little Pim Views, and a set of language-learning DVDs. The collection is still a work in progress, but we’re very pleased with our growth and our patrons are, too!

Where do you find your books in other languages – any great bookstores or websites we should all know? How do you catalog and collect books in languages other than English?

One comment

  1. Renee

    I don’t have any suggestions for answers but I can relate in that I was looking into purchasing children’s books in Portuguese for our library’s collection and came across the same road block when trying to find where/from whom could we purchase these books.

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