Tag Archives: China

Canadian Academic Library Support forInternational Faculty: Library Experience and Information Needs of Chinese Visiting Scholars at the University of Western Ontario

Reviewed By: Charlotte Natale, David Hicks, Jillian Zeller, Leslie Pethoud, Michael McClain, Stephanie Murakami

Link to article: https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/1997/2634

Article Synopsis

In this article, the author examines the causes of shortcomings in academic library service provided to visiting international scholars, specifically scholars from China. Many of the difficulties faced by these international scholars are similar to the difficulties faced by international students, but much more has been written about student issues. The author identifies several key challenges that visiting Chinese scholars face that prevent those scholars from effectively using library services: a language barrier between scholars and library staff, a mutual lack of awareness between the scholars and the library, differences in previous library experience between Chinese and North American libraries, and the differences in search strategies and citation management between Chinese and English language services. The author then makes recommendations for how to address these challenges in order to provide adequate library service.
This article showcases an international perspective on diversity by emphasizing the differences between Canadian academic libraries and Chinese academic libraries, such as differences in expectations of the services that are provided by library staff. We see that cultural differences must be acknowledged and addressed by library staff in order to provide equal service to visiting international scholars, and that cultural differences affect the library experiences and expectations of scholars as well as students. The author suggests that the lessons learned at the University of Western Ontario can be applied to libraries across North America and beyond.

Core Research Questions

The core research questions of our chosen article are: (1) how are international faculty utilizing the academic library of the University of Western Ontario and (2) what else can be done by academic librarians to support the underserved population of international faculty? (Xie, 2012, p. 1)

Methods Used

The University of Western Ontario in Canada funded a visiting University Scholars Program to attract visiting faculty to the campus. Faculty members apply to the Canadian program to expand their research work beyond their own countries. However, language and culture barriers affected the use of the library by non-English speaking visitors caused by a lack of familiarity with library terms and services. The author hypothesized that there is a significant relationship between library information behaviors of non-English speaking visitors and their lack of familiarity with library jargon and terms outside of their countries, languages, cultures, and library experiences in their home libraries.
The author conducted one-on-one interviews with several Chinese visiting scholars on the campus of the University of Western Ontario. An email was sent to an entire group of Chinese scholars, which included a bilingual Chinese and English questionnaire about their library use and an invitation to a library workshop in which search strategies, information sources, and the interlibrary loan process were introduced. The questionnaire was short and simple and consisted of questions about the scholars’ visits online and in-person to the university library and their preferences for library search tools.

Findings and Conclusions

Xie (2012) identified four themes relating to Chinese visiting scholars’ use of libraries at Western:
Language barrier: Although Chinese scholars have some knowledge and use of the English language, many of them struggle with speaking and listening to English, therefore making it difficult to communicate their needs to campus staff.
Library awareness: There is a lack of awareness of Chinese scholars about academic libraries’ resources and there is also a lack of awareness of library staff about international staff’s information and user needs.
Library experience: The previous experience Chinese scholars had at their home libraries affected the resources they used while at Western. Scholars from small to medium sized libraries that often lacked access to databases were more likely to use web-based searches. Additionally, none of the scholars had used reference services at their home libraries which translated into them not being aware of, and therefore not using, reference services at Western.
Information needs: Scholars need to learn how to formulate a search using English databases because it is different than Chinese databases due to the English language’s use of letters and the Chinese language’s use of characters. Scholars also need help evaluating journals and using citation management software.


Outreach approaches: Work with existing faculty who have connections with visiting faculty and communicate through a key contact person to reach the target user group via outreach efforts. Suggested approaches are to partner with another group on campus to give a library introduction and to create supporting materials like a pamphlet for distribution.
Reference Help: Librarians should be patient and understanding. When verbal communication fails, another option is to have the individual write down their question. Additionally, librarians can consult the “Multilingual Glossary of Terms”created by ACRL-IS or try to refer the individual to another colleague who is proficient in the language.
Copyright and Open Access Information: It is recommended that library staff highlight copyright regulations to international faculty as they may be significantly different from their home country. Additionally, it is helpful to connect the visiting scholars with open access information so they may continue to use these resources when they leave the university.


International visiting faculty are easily overlooked and academic librarians should be more aware of these scholars. Similar to international students, international faculty face challenges in using academic libraries. More research is needed on this particular user group.

What American libraries can learn from global practice about designing services for diverse populations
American libraries have much to learn from this study, since Chinese scholars who visit American universities can be expected to experience many of the same challenges. When designing services for these populations, American academic librarians can follow Xie’s (2012, p. 10) example of building relationships with key members of the visiting scholar community. These direct, personal connections provide a necessary window into the unique information needs of this population, while also serving as a foundation upon which to build strategic partnerships that can enhance the effectiveness of service provision. In order to develop these connections, academic librarians must be made aware of the visiting scholar community on campus. To achieve this, librarians could request to be notified when visiting scholars arrive so that they can reach out to them with library orientation information.
This study also demonstrates the importance of understanding the ways in which visiting scholars perceive the library, which is influenced primarily by their prior experience with libraries in their home countries (Xie, 2012, p. 8). Since library services vary across the world, visiting scholars may have limited knowledge of the services provided by American libraries and would, thus, need to be informed of these (Xie, 2012, p. 8–9). Xie’s (2012, p. 11) suggestion of conducting library orientation seminars specifically for visiting scholars and partnering with other departments on campus to distribute informational pamphlets to them would work well at American universities. Additionally, American academic librarians could establish a network of global colleagues to learn more about libraries around the world and their unique differences.
Xie (2012, p. 6–7) also provides helpful guidance on how to address the language barriers experienced by this population. Since Chinese visiting scholars sometimes have difficulty communicating verbally in English (Xie, 2012, p. 6), providing avenues for them to interact with librarians in writing, such as service request forms, would make it easier for them to communicate their information needs. A simple strategy that American academic libraries could employ to address these language barriers is to display signage in multiple languages throughout the library—either temporarily for the duration of the visiting scholars’ stay, or permanently, if a particular institution hosts international scholars and patrons regularly or has a policy aim of “enhanc[ing] its visibility and involvement in international activities and collaborations” (Xie, 2012, p. 2). Supplying visitors with very detailed instructions for library usage in their language is a direct way to prevent confusion or miscommunication. The institution can also provide training for library staff to develop their cultural knowledge and equip them with a basic level of language proficiency. Contracting translators for the duration of visitors’ stay is also an option.
American libraries should maintain an internal evaluation process to quantitatively and qualitatively measure the success of its programs. The 2011 workshop at Western provided questions alongside instruction (Xie, 2012, p. 5); however, for added clarity, international scholars and similar visitors should be provided an exit survey once they have finished their work at the library location. In-person interviews prior to their leaving, while informal, would also be a useful way to gain data to improve library operation. The exact number of international patrons, the duration of their stay, and for what reason they use the library should be tracked for the further refinement of library programs and preparation for future visits.

Xie, S. (2012). Canadian academic library support for international faculty: Library experience and information needs of Chinese visiting scholars at the University of Western Ontario. Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 7(2), 1–14.


Reviewed By: Judith Gruber, Tess Harper, Anne Luca, Isabel Vargas, Jennifer Weisberger

Link to article: https://doaj.org/article/3cdebe9f3705497b99cb59fa81a1da7a

Intellectual freedom, or the right of every individual to have access to and express information of all points of view without restriction, is one of the primary principles of modern public librarianship. Nanjing Library, the oldest public library in China, has taken positive and effective strides in the efforts to ensure intellectual freedom to the community that it serves. In the the article Nanjing Library’s Efforts on Intellectual Freedom, which was written by one of the librarians who works there, gives an in depth analysis of the library’s services and history. Established in 1907, Nanjing Library is the public library of the province of Jiangsu, and was the national central library during the period of the Republic of China (1912-1949). Due to its rich cultural history and place of importance within the community, Nanjing Library promotes intellectual freedom for its patrons through its collections, services, and free access to information, both print and digital. As a member of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), Nanjing Library is part of a large global network of public libraries serving as information centers offering historical and rare materials, as well as increasingly modern resources
The Nanjing Library houses the third largest library collection in China with more than 11 million volumes of collected books. The Nanjing Library is known for its collection of historical documents that consists of “1.6 million volumes of ancient books, including 140,000 rare books and 700,000 volumes of Republic of China’s documents” (Bing, 2015, p. 8). This collection includes ancient manuscripts, block-prints, books and other works from the Tang and Liao dynasties. 454 elements of the Nanjing collection have been placed on China’s National Precious Ancient Book Register. The Nanjing collection has “formed a resource system, covering various fields in social sciences and natural sciences” (p.8).
The Nanjing Library is located in the center of Nanjing in an area known as Daxinggong. The construction of this library cost more than 400 million Yuan and consists of over 78, 000 sq. meters of floor space. The Nanjing library houses 3,000 seats for its users as well as “more than 4,000 information points for users in the Library” (p.8). The Nanjing Library’s mission is to take positive and effective measures to protect the intellectual freedom of its users. The free public services the library offers include reading, lending, and references services, access to a plethora of databases, lectures, exhibitions and “all kinds of reader activities (p.8)”.
With regard to serving disadvantaged groups, Bing (2015) writes that Jiangsu provincial library’s “…key functions include collecting, organizing, preserving, and utilizing information resources to support its mission of providing information resources to support its mission of providing services to all citizens, including disadvantaged groups” (p. 14). In addition, Jiangsu library also was the pioneering library to offer services to “visually impaired users among all provincial public libraries in China”, calling it “The Blind Audio Library” (Bing, 2015, p. 14). This collection contains “…3,000 volumes of Braille books and 33,000 audiobooks” as well as “…Braille printers, tape recorders, video viewing devices, computers for the visually impaired to get the Internet” and other services (Bing, 2015, p.14). Furthermore, Bing (2015) writes that “Since 2012, Nanjing Library has been organizing public training for rural migrant workers, the elderly, children, laid-off workers, and other vulnerable groups”, offering these groups instruction on using computers and digital resources (p.15).
The Nanjing Library provides open access to its resources 365 days a year, providing free parking and and mostly free library cards to patrons. The vast majority of its services are available for free, including reference and all lending services. They also have lectures which are available for patrons at no cost. These lectures vary on different topics, and are considered very important parts of life to the patrons who utilize them. The library has also curated many exhibits,which also attract patrons. The Nanjing Library has worked to digitize sources, which not only provides users a means for access them, in addition to preserving the print resources that they have. A mobile app was created, as well as an RFID self service system, which has touch screens for users to access. The library is also working to get the OCLC WorldCat up and running in the library as well. With all of these services and resources, the Nanjing Library has encouraged people to get involved and actively learn. Particularly community events such as the lectures and the exhibits are designed to bring people into the library and learn, while also bringing patrons in contact with the other services the library provides.
The Nanjing Library is encouraging intellectual freedom by providing digital resources. The library gives users free access to not only Chinese databases, but foreign databases. This helps the community stay globally aware and involved – especially since they’ve also given users touch screen devices for newspaper reading. Their electronic reading room provides users with free internet access and multimedia resources.
Of course, one may question whether there is any censorship given China’s history and political climate. Censorship is a major concern in most libraries, but with China’s history of silencing any political dissent, it does make one concerned about what filters may still be enacted on the digital information users are being given. China has been known to monitor its citizens on the internet, and for citizens to face real consequences from stating their opinions or accessing information. This is also a piece which was written by a librarian who helps run this library, which does bring up some concerns about how unbiased this might be as a source. However, enabling the community to access information online, is sending a positive message that the Nanjing Library is a place of intellectual freedom, which does give one hope that this is a place where information users access is less heavily monitored.

Advancing English Language Learning in China through Multimodal Content Area Teaching

By Claudine Taillac, Erik Jones, Jasmine Avila, Kimberly Ellis

Link to article: http://www.joci.ecu.edu/index.php/JoCI/article/view/v8n2p68

Advancing English Language Learning in China through Multimodal Content Area Teaching
Cheryl North and Nancy Rankie Shelton, University of Maryland Baltimore County


Blog post submitted by: Jasmine Avila, Erik Jones, Kimberly Ellis, and Claudine Taillac


During a ten-day teaching abroad experience in China, eight teachers from the United States implemented an interactive curriculum focusing on disciplinary literacy and authentic tasks. Employing multiliteracies and kidwatching, teachers encouraged Chinese students to compose while focusing primarily on communicating ideas rather than grammatical correctness. This article provides a one-student case study that serves as a representative example of the growth of 50 elementary-level students involved in the experience. Initially, Paul focused on writing correctness in response to prompts; his compositions were short and provided little detail. After we provided multimodal and interactive authentic experiences and encouraged risk-taking, Paul’s representative compositions became more detailed and complex. The implications for engaging in this type of teaching experience underscore the benefits of providing students with authentic experiences that are multimodal and interactive while simultaneously encouraging risk-taking. The pedagogical growth that teachers made working with ELL students is also discussed.

The article “Advancing English Language Learning in China through Multimodal Content Area by Teaching” highlights a study of eight experienced teachers from the U.S. who travelled to China to implement a summer curriculum for Chinese students. These students would learn English and U.S. culture through a curriculum that focused on “communicating ideas rather than grammatical correctness” (North & Shelton, 2014, p.68). They also examined the individual student experience using one student, Paul, and his growth throughout the summer course.

This experiment examined the role that writing plays in learning English as a second language. The teachers were tasked to evaluate the effects of their methods by providing the students with “authentic experiences that are multimodal and interactive while simultaneously encouraging risk taking” (North & Shelton, 2014, p.68). An additional goal included designing “a teaching experience that would further our understanding of the role writing plays in learning a second language” (North & Shelton, 2014, p.71).

The eight experienced educators that the project coordinators selected from the U.S. to participate needed to have “an appreciation for the importance of multiple literacies in any curriculum” (North & Shelton, 2014, p.72). None of the chosen teachers were ESOL certified, and none spoke Chinese. The chosen school in China was known for its after-school and summer programs and already had a curriculum that included learning the English language and U.S. culture. The coordinators selected a class of fifty students, ranging from eight to fourteen years old; all had previously studied English in their normal curriculum.

The authors used multiliteracies and “kidwatching” to construct realistic environments in which they would learn English naturally and authentically. Lessons required that students talk about themselves and various topics, through both text and picture drawings. Throughout the course, the teachers implemented “science and engineering lessons during which the students would construct a propulsion model and build bridges and boats, social studies units that included mapping and comparing and contrasting the monetary systems used in our respective countries, and literature lessons that explored the language and culture of the United States using picture books, adolescent literature, and graphic novels” (North & Shelton, 2014, p.71). Lesson plans included music, literature, multiliteracies, and movement to further develop the students’ understanding of the English language.

By stepping away from traditional pedagogy of “drill and skill” and instead exploring English language learning through the use of multiliteracies and “kidwatching,” the teachers were able to show evidence of what effect writing has on language learning. It was revealed that this approach led to more developed thinking by providing an engaging and rich learning experience that not only focuses on the skill but connects children with the ability to express themselves accurately in a second language. “Whether in China, the United States, or any other country, students will learn when appropriate conditions are set for them” (North & Shelton, 2014, p.83).

These findings are important to consider in the U.S. teaching system for English Language Learners. As the U.S. becomes more and more diverse, educators encounter many students whose first language may not be English and, therefore, learning can be a challenge.
The study’s value lies in its applicable pedagogy for guiding teachers toward an alternative approach to English Language Learning programs in schools in order to help non-English-speaking students achieve not only language understanding but also to learn the value of their ideas, an ability to articulate, and a sense of individuality. “Our students knew more than they could express, and we needed to provide ways for them to communicate with us…we believed that expression of ideas was the most important part of learning a language” (North & Shelton, 2014, p.74). When students feel that their individual histories and stories are valuable, their willingness to participate increases; consequently, their ability to grasp an understanding of a second language increases.

This study has merit and is applicable in the U.S.; however, a crucial factor in evaluating its full worth would rely on observing how this approach would translate to a classroom setting similar to in the U.S. where class size is large, sometimes a 30-to-1 ratio of students to teachers, and where the students all have vastly different backgrounds. How can this research be applied on a larger and more complex scale?

The first thing teachers will need to further develop in order to make this pedagogy more effective is to invest time in learning about the culture of the students they are going to be working with. Understanding the subtle differences in teaching and learning styles, the student/teacher dynamic, and the differences in cultural values and upbringing are essential for a program like this to have a lasting impact. More background research would have better prepared the instructors in this study for the various surprises they encountered with students and the classroom structure. By acknowledging the cultural differences that exist in cross-cultural teaching and learning, researchers could design a more inclusive program that created more collaboration among learners and instructors.

The greatest barrier to this collaboration stems from the misunderstanding that can occur when instructors assume that all students and learning environments are the same and subsequently base their instruction on this premise. This oversight creates the risk of instructors developing lesson plans that are not fully accessible to the learners or, in the worst-case scenario, developing lesson plans that are entirely ineffective and therefore forgotten once the instructors leave. Working collaboratively with the instructors already onsite to design lesson plans is the best practice for implementation of a program such as this.