Tag Archives: library orientation


Reviewed By: Gregory Witmer, Kelli Rose, Kristen Bunner, Nanette Reyes Cruz

Link to article: http://publish.lib.umd.edu/IJIDI/article/view/335/71

The article, Meeting Campus Linguistic Diversity: A Multilingual Library Orientation Approach, is a case study examining the planning, implementation, evaluation, and assessment of a multilingual library orientation program for enrolled students at McGill University, located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The article provides an overview of the demographic makeup of the student population, identifies the goals of the orientation initiative and reviews supporting literature. A description of the researchers’ approach, including their instructional design, marketing strategies, evaluation and assessment, and a discussion of the challenges and lessons learned are also offered. The article contributes to the body of knowledge in library science, specifically providing an international perspective for the development of library services for multilingual patrons (Zhao, Torabi, & Smith, 2016, pp. 1-3).

According to university enrollment reports for the Fall semester of 2016, international students at McGill account for over 25% of the total student population, while more than half of all students are considered to have a native language other than English (as cited in Zhao et al., 2016). This article’s literature review focuses on the information-seeking behaviors and information needs of international students; additionally, it serves to highlight the challenges that non-native English-speaking students face when navigating an institution’s library and education system, particularly when seeking and using information.

In a previous study by Zhuo, Emanuel, and Jiao (2007), researchers reported the lack of knowledge and experience in using a library, along with difficulties in understanding English worded jargon and search terminology, will often generate a preference among international students for information services and resources to be offered in their native languages (as cited in Zhao et al., 2016). Ishimura and Bartlett (2013) noted not understanding academic expectations influenced the quality of information literacy and, consequently, the international students’ work; similarly, Greenberg and Bar-Ilan (2014) reported the following observations among non-native speaking groups: less utilization of search engines, databases, reference resources, and a diminished number of sources cited within their work (as cited in Zhao et al., 2016). As a result, all the research studies recommended tailoring information literacy and library instruction to meet the needs of the multilingual student population, including offering services and information to different native language groups in their own language. In doing so, a culture of inclusivity and the enhancement of library student relations can both be fostered (pp. 3-4).

Librarians at the McGill Library identified a knowledge gap of library services and resources for non-native English-speaking students, which are shown from past studies to stem from barriers caused by lack of English proficiency, lack of previous library experiences, and cultural differences (as cited in Zhao et al., 2016, p. 3). This information stimulated the following research questions:

1. Can multilingual library orientation sessions help better meet the library and information needs of McGill Library’s linguistically diverse student population?
2. Would a multilingual orientation improve non-native English-speaking students’ knowledge of library services and resources?

Building on McGill Library’s thematic vision––Access, Collection, Space, and People––the library began to develop an approach for the orientation initiative. After identifying the most common languages spoken (French, Mandarin Chinese, Persian, English, and Spanish), liaison librarians were recruited who expressed an interest in the project and spoke the languages identified; next, the team moved on to creating an official title, developing the curriculum, implementation, and assessment plans; and lastly, organizing logistics and promotional strategies. The team incorporated a blend of technological and traditional promotional techniques including social media, their library website, newsletters, pamphlets, posters, and outreach. Across each multilingual orientation session, instruction focused on the following five learning objectives:

1. Navigate and find library services using the library’s website.
2. Locate different library branches and learn how to use the library as a space.
3. Become familiar with the digital and physical collections.
4. Access e-resources off campus.
5. Find and contact subject specialist librarians at the McGill Library.

During each session, library related vocabulary was provided in English to help students build a working knowledge of terminology. Formative and summative assessments were incorporated into the instructional design with teaching activities and an end-of-session assessment questionnaire that provided useful feedback to inform current and subsequent instruction (pp. 5-8).

The sessions boasted a 63% attendance rate with orientations in Mandarin Chinese having the highest attendance. This may be attributed to early semester scheduling (the Mandarin Chinese orientation was offered earliest in the semester), leading the authors to speculate that students are more willing to attend orientation sessions at the beginning of the semester while their schedules are less busy. Also, there were more Chinese speaking students because they make up the third largest population after English and French speaking students (pp. 8-10).

The summative questionnaire identified an increase in students’ library knowledge along with positive feedback, leading the liaison librarians to conclude that the initiative achieved its overall goals of proactively meeting the information needs of McGill’s linguistically diverse population, and improving non-native English-speaking students’ knowledge of library services and resources. The summative questionnaire also provided insight on students’ desires for additional multilingual instruction, LibGuides, workshops, video tutorials, webpages and other online material. The orientation sessions did not have consistent attendance in all languages and the authors recommended further research on understanding both the library use and information-seeking behaviors of French-speaking and non French- or English-speaking students alike (pp. 10-11).

Due to a low response rate regarding the library’s assessment questionnaire––in terms of students from sessions other than the Chinese orientations––researchers did not have the available data to draw conclusions regarding the surprisingly low attendance among French-speaking students (2016, p. 10). Some of the unanswered questions are:

1. What other ideas do the researchers have for engaging the other non-native English speaking groups to encourage attendance of these orientation sessions?
2. What else can be done to ensure completion of the end of session questionnaire? What types of incentives could have been offered?
3. Why were follow-up interviews not considered as a means for obtaining further qualitative data?
4. Did this research inspire librarians to develop other targeted initiatives? (e.g., Multilingual web pages, LibGuides, or online tutorials?)

Librarians at the McGill Library have noted a growing community of non- or limited-English users, which also correlates to the increasing trend for diversity within higher education settings, “due to increasing mobility among youth and an ever-globalizing world economy” (Zhao et at., 2016, p. 1). It’s important for information professionals to be aware of the challenges these individuals commonly encounter during their information-seeking activities, and to cater instructional materials to better-provide services to these diverse groups. Librarians should strive to accommodate all members within their community; however, providing information literacy in a student’s native language can be a challenging task given the lack of languages spoken by library staff. The authors of this article encouraged resourcefulness and creativity in providing learning opportunities and multilingual services to the non-native English-speaking student. Furthermore, they recommended the collaboration and training of international students as liaisons who can contribute to existing library services and provide input in the development of supplemental programs (p. 11-12).

Our own recommendations for future investigations relating to linguistically-diverse community groups align with Beaulieu’s (2013) statement that continued attention to the relationship with the surrounding multilingual communities is essential for the successful development of library services (p.19). Cultivating a strong shared relationship with these groups not only allows for honest feedback and continued participation, but prevents library efforts from stagnating or developing in ways that are contrary to the needs and wants of students––or other user types. In terms of addressing the overall low response rate of this study’s assessment questionnaire, we suggest for librarians to offer incentives that may increase users’ participation and willingness to provide feedback. Additionally, for similar types of future studies, reaching out to those who attended the orientation sessions––or establishing focus groups––can provide librarians with further qualitative data on students’ perceptions and attitudes towards multilingual library initiatives. Librarians at McGill can also create multilingual, self-directed online materials that highlight resources and services that the library offers; the development of these online tutorials would allow additional students to access the orientation material at their own pace. Providing these types of resources would likely result in more students participating, which accomplishes the initiative’s goal to proactively meet the library and information of their linguistically diverse student population (Zhao et al., 2016, p. 2).

Beaulieu, T. (2013). No surprise, community engagement works. In B. Smallwood & K. Becnel (Eds.), Library services for multicultural patrons (p. 13-20). Scarecrow Press.

Zhao, J. C., Torabi, N., & Smith, S. (2016). Meeting Campus Linguistic Diversity: A Multilingual Library Orientation Approach. The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 1.