Tag Archives: outreach

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.

“MOLLY®, when will you come again? : A mobile library service for the less privileged”

Reviewed By: Mariam Berlak, Laura Blasingame, Kristy Ealy, Felicia Mackey, Carmina Ramirez

Link to article: https://academicworks.cuny.edu/ulj/vol15/iss2/1/

Reviewed by: Mariam Berlak, Laura Blasingame, Kristy Ealy, Felicia Mackey, Carmina Ramirez


Mobile libraries exist to provide equal “access to available information resources” (Chan, 2009, p. 2). Initially, mobile libraries were introduced to Singapore in 1958 “to alleviate the demands for library services at the main library in Stamford Road and to reach out to the juvenile population after several part-time branches closed”(Chan, 2009, p. 1). With the library closures, student in rural areas did not have library access. At that time, the mobile libraries served “students from 35 rural schools… on a fortnightly basis”(Chan, 2009, pp. 1-2). By 1991, the mobile library service came to an end when more library branches were built. The students of Singapore no longer have an issue finding a library as Singapore currently has “one reference library, three regional libraries and nineteen community libraries” (Chan, 2009, p. 1). But even with there being so many libraries, “more than 50% of Singapore’s population remain inactive library users” (Chan, 2009, p. 2).

“MOLLY®, when will you come again? : A mobile library service for the less privileged” introduces us to a mobile library, MOLLY®, in Singapore that is housed in a converted transport bus with “retro-fitting of shelves, air conditioner, generator, retractable awning and exterior decal” (Chan, 2009, p. 4). “[T]he mobile library carries 3000 books at any one time, it has more than 25,000 books in its entire collection stored off-site” (Chan, 2009, p. 4). The mobile library was started in 2008. MOLLY® functions like a normal library, which helps familiarize users with how a library operates: “the mobile library adopts the operational blueprint of a branch library, the acquisition of materials is also centralized at a library supply centre” (Chan, 2009, p. 5). This mobile library focuses on serving disadvantaged children. MOLLY® travels to “special education schools for children and teenagers with intellectual and physical disabilities, schools for children with autism, associations for persons with intellectual and physical disabilities, homes and shelters for children, teenagers and adults, orphanages” (Chan, 2009, p. 2) as well as prisons, to serve children with parents who are incarcerated.

The study represented in this article seeks to answer the following questions:

How can we connect potential library users to the library?
How do we connect library services to community members whose social, economic and physical constraints hinder their use of libraries?
How can mobile libraries provide library services that foster social bonding, equal access to books, teaches values to its users while providing invaluable experience to library staff to better serve special populations?

In order to answer these questions, it was needed to identify members in the community that were not accessing library services; this meant identifying groups that had social, economic and physical constraints. These groups included children, youth and adults in welfare homes and orphanages, students in special education schools and senior citizens.

To achieve this outcome, it was vital to establish and maintain lasting partnerships with principals, teachers, and administrators to maintain interest in library programs beyond the initial novelty of having MOLLY® visit their sites. Another important aspect was to build relationships with students. In this way, social bonding took place by offering a space to read and to learn surrounded by library staff, peers and family.

As library staff spent more time with students, they were able to better understand their needs. They identified reading levels and interests which helped with collection development. Some students learned to open and hold a book or identify pictures and words. These opportunities gave them equal access to books in the same way as if they had visited the public library.

Teachers took the opportunity to teach values of responsibility to their young and adult students by bringing their library cards the day MOLLY® visited and by taking care of the books they checked out. Other values of the service was the “normalization” of special needs children by having regular contact with people and learn how to do things independently such as checking out a book.

Additionally, creating and maintaining this service allowed library staff to gain experience that they would not have received otherwise through outreach to traditionally underserved populations in Singapore. This experience can be applied more broadly in the information profession as they learned to interact with and serve all types of users with a respectful and sensitive manner.

In less than a year, MOLLY® has effectively contributed to the lives of those who are typically underserved in Singapore due to age, location, or disability. In particular, one school principal of a school for children with special needs noted that MOLLY® not only increased awareness of library services, but also introduced these students to “qualities that are essential for learning” (Chan, 2009, pp. 15-17).

From the date of the article, one year after the mobile library’s launch, “40,000 people have visited the mobile library… 1,167 new library membership sign-ups and more than 54,000 books borrowed from the mobile library” (Chan, 2009, pp. 14-15). With the launch of MOLLY®, library patronage has gone up; this is of particular importance when considering the aim of encouraging new library membership rather than simply serving a population on a single occasion. If one bus can bring library services to so many people, what can 5 busses do? If every country and community worldwide had a mobile library like MOLLY®, more people would have easy access to information. More disadvantaged people would be socially and culturally informed. This article shows that if you bring services to the people, the people will use them. The library will no longer be just the building you pass on the way to the post office; instead it will be this cool, fun place to go. And that idea will work anywhere in the world.

The United States has a well-developed bricks and mortar library system but it works best for those who live adjacent to their physical libraries; more work is needed reaching out to underserved disabled patrons. MOLLY® brings access to those who are not well served by the standard local library, either because there is no library close enough or because the targeted audience is not easily served. MOLLY® can be stocked with books and materials based on specific needs of a community in addition to going to schools that lack libraries or have underfunded libraries and neighborhoods that do not have libraries, all the while providing access to the differently-abled. The bookmobile concept is not a new one, but in the United States the use of mobile libraries has not been utilized in a way to bring services to diverse and underserved populations. Adopting a MOLLY®-type of mobile library will allow library services to reach those who would benefit from library resources but for whom it is currently inaccessible. From providing books and internet access to economically stressed populations to allowing atypical users, who are mentally-challenged and whose needs for books are often overlooked, access to materials, a MOLLY®-type of mobile library has the ability to change lives by bringing library collections and services out into local communities instead of waiting fruitlessly for those populations to make their way into the bricks and mortar libraries.

While public areas in the United States are relatively accessible to the disabled overall, the modifications in public areas are often to assist people in wheelchairs or for the blind. Following MOLLY®’s lead, American libraries can begin to add modifications for adults and children with sensory issues and for people on the autism spectrum. Libraries should have specialized rooms with comfortable lighting, inviting colors, and soothing sounds specifically designed for people with sensory needs.

Many American libraries could learn how to exercise patience from global practices. Looking at library practices from around the world, including MOLLY®, it is clear that patience is a priority because of the wide range of communities that they serve. Communities are diverse in nature and not every community has had the experience of visiting a library or even reading books. Taking the time to carefully show inexperienced patrons how to use the different facilities that a library offers, even something as simple as how to use a self-checkout machine, requires patience and understanding, both of which are important in designing and providing services for diverse populations.

Chan, K. (2009). MOLLY®, When Will You Come Again? : A mobile library service for the less privileged. Urban Library Journal, 15(02). doi: 10.31641/ulj150201