On the PLIF blog this month Sally Clegg, Principal Librarian with Glasgow Libraries, talks about their successful 2017 PLIF project which looked at breaking down barriers some non-English speaking library customers face.

The Community Language Engagement and Participatory Budgeting Project looked at the community language resources we have available throughout the city.

Essentially, we wanted to make sure we have the right materials in the right place at the right time. Importantly we needed to consult directly with library users and non-users who did not have English as a first language.

At Glasgow Libraries we aim to provide socially inclusive cultural services which promote equality and challenge discrimination. We are also eager to increase library usage amongst under-represented and/or hard-to-reach groups across the city. It is important that future communities see libraries as useful and relevant to their needs – leading to the increased use of libraries and the full range of resources we provide.

Community Volunteers

Our PLIF project relied on a small, dedicated group of volunteers who spoke a range of languages including Chinese, Farsi, Arabic and French. The volunteers were a vital part in the success of the project and instrumental in allowing us to communicate fluently with customers for whom English isn’t a first language.

They allowed us to carry out community consultation sessions across various areas of the city and gain accurate and relevant feedback. Through our volunteers we were able to foster a sense of ownership and inclusion from the whole Glasgow family of users and in turn, develop relevant services.

Buy the Book

At Glasgow Libraries we have an established consultation event known as Buy the Book. These sessions allow librarians to talk directly to library users and to gather first-hand what people want from their libraries. We use the information gathered to help shape our services at a local level to meet the needs of specific communities.

We held sessions in areas across the city including Maryhill, Parkhead and Govanhill public libraries and one in the City of Glasgow College. By involving college students who have English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) we were also able to raise their awareness of the resources they can tap into citywide.

These sessions made us more conscious of the barriers non-English speaking customers face when trying to access our services. Ultimately, we were able to identify new material and areas of provision required.

The sessions also emphasised that the library is an important contact point for not just reading and literacy but for information, support and social contact too.

Project Outcomes

One of the most important project outcomes was the production of our ‘Join Us’ leaflet, which is available in Arabic, Chinese, Urdu, Farsi, French and Hindi throughout all our venues.

In addition, the self-issue terminals which are available in many of our libraries now offer a range of different community languages.