State Library of Queensland serves the entire state of Queensland, the second largest and third-most-populous state in Australia, with a population of over 5.2 million residents. State Library provides a range of special collections to over 320 public library branches across the state including, Independent Libraries, Rural Libraries Queensland, and Indigenous Knowledge Centres.
“We are a central repository, and we’re responsible for distributing specialised collections for diverse audiences, whether it’s large print or eAudiobooks or books in Languages Other Than English (LOTE),” says Jason Richards, Librarian, Access Services, State Library of Queensland. “These specialised collections are available to anyone in Queensland through their local library membership.”
One state, many languages
Queensland has been the fastest-growing state in Australia for decades, with high levels of international immigration. In fact, according to the 2016 census, nearly 29% of Queensland’s residents were born overseas, and only 54% had parents born in Australia. In 2021, 20% spoke languages other than English at home, an increase of a percentage point in just five years.
State Library has long distributed print LOTE materials to requesting libraries in Queensland. State Library has, like many libraries, adopted a digital-first agenda. New print materials, particularly in reference and information collections, are being moved to digital, and digital collections are taking precedence in purchasing.
“With the changes over the last years, we were looking for something to address the needs of those who speak languages other than English,” says Richards. “We wanted a platform that could be used for all Queenslanders to access LOTE digital books. A lot of libraries offer digital collections, but it is difficult to provide a service to diverse communities in multiple languages in multiple libraries. A centralised digital collection builds on the long tradition of the LOTE lending service”.
Building a digital LOTE collection available to all
State Library’s team met with Bibliotheca’s cloudLibrary team in April 2022 to discuss using cloudLibrary and cloudLink to build a digital LOTE collection that could be shared by every library in the state.
cloudLink is a consortium model that allows participating cloudLibrary customers to share digital collections with neighbouring libraries. cloudLink is unique in that while it allows libraries to pool resources, each library maintains control of its individual collection. In a standard cloudLink group, several different libraries select and purchase their own titles. Any member of the group can borrow available titles, but to allow libraries to prioritise their own patrons, patrons cannot place holds on items that their library does not own.
However, State Library needed something a little different. To allow over 320 different library branches equal access to every title purchased by one central body, Bibliotheca worked closely with staff to build a custom “borrow and reserve” cloudLink group. State Library is the central body of the Queensland cloudLibrary Language Collection, and members from every library service around the state can borrow and reserve any items from the collection.
“The Access Services team at State Library came up with the idea,” says Kylie Peckham, Business Development Account Manager, Digital Content Solutions, Bibliotheca. “We worked very closely with them to ensure we could set up a scenario that would work the way they wanted it to for the Queensland community and that we could support moving forward.”
To build the collection, the team looked at usage patterns and requests statewide. Gathering data from their annual physical collection survey and recommendations from librarians, they decided to begin by focusing the collection on titles in the top 20 most requested languages.
It was also important to State Library that the new Queensland cloudLibrary Language Collection be easily discoverable and accessible to all patrons. Instead of creating only a central cloudLibrary account, which would require patrons to hold both a local library card and a State Library card, each library service was given an individual cloudLibrary account. Patrons can access the Language Collection using their local library credentials, and existing cloudLibrary customers can easily toggle between collections.
To help the State Library promote Queensland’s new cloudLibrary Language Collection, Bibliotheca provided customised bookmarks, digital marketing materials, and posters.
“We’re handing out the bookmarks at conferences in the area to make sure that libraries know this is an available resource for all members of any Queensland library service,” says Kylie Peckham. “As we talk with our Queensland library customers, we’re making sure they are aware of the collection and promoting it to their patrons, so everyone has access.”
1,500 books in 20 languages are just the beginning
The soft launch of the Queensland cloudLibrary Language Collection coincided with Australian Library and Information Association’s (ALIA) Library and Information Week in late July, just three months after the initial exploratory conversations. By September, the collection was available through nearly all libraries statewide.
There are currently approximately 1,500 titles available in over 20 languages. So far, the top languages based on usage are diverse and include Afrikaans, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Chinese. New titles are added each month by the cloudLibrary Collection Development Team working in collaboration with the State Library team. State Library collects requests for specific titles and suggestions for languages from libraries. One independent library system has already suggested adding an additional five languages.
Though State Library is putting additional effort into building a robust LOTE digital collection, it has no intention of discontinuing the LOTE physical material collection. Several rural libraries are just far too remote to have reliable internet access. Hopefully, access will improve over the coming years, but in the meantime, the new Queensland cloudLibrary Language Collection is providing data about LOTE lending that hasn’t been available before.
“Historically, when a library requests a print book from the LOTE collection, we send it on and have no idea what happens to that book while it’s there. It could be borrowed ten times, or not at all,” says Margretha Gould, Lead, Access Services, State Library of Queensland. “cloudLibrary usage will help us understand our client’s community language needs now and into the future”
“By building a digital LOTE collection, we’re providing all patrons with the ability to borrow and read a book from the couch, regardless of what language they prefer to read in.” says Richards.