LINGUIST List 12.1760

Sun Jul 8 2001

Qs: Libraries and Minority Languages

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  1. Graham Cornish, Libraries and minority languages

Message 1: Libraries and minority languages

Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2001 15:36:50 +0100
From: Graham Cornish <>
Subject: Libraries and minority languages

Dear Linguist colleagues

The reason for writing is that I am the director of the Programme for 
Universal Availability of Publications (UAP) for the International 
Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). We have just been awarded a 
contract by the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages to research 
into the role of libraries in the EU in promoting minority languages 
(i.e. not merely conserving their past but promoting their future). 
Below you will find a description of the project and wondered if there 
were colleagues out there who could help with the project. We need all 
the information we can get about libraries and minority languages and 
would be pleased to input the findings to Linguist (or any other 
interested orlganisation) when complete early in 2002.

Yours sincerely

Graham P Cornish
Director, IFLA UAP Programme

Contribution of libraries and archives to promoting and safeguarding 
minority languages

Details of the proposed project


Libraries and archives have always played a significant role in 
PRESERVING local cultures and languages. However, two important changes 
have taken place in recent years to make this mere collecting policy 

 1.. there has been a significant increase in the amount of recorded 
material (written and audio) produced in minority language throughout 
Europe (and elsewhere).
 2.. Libraries and archives are moving from being merely collectors of 
material to being proactive in the services they offer. This includes 
not only bibliographic information but exhibitions, storytelling 
sessions, promoting culture through websites and live events
These major changes in context and activity make it vital that we 
understand properly the changing role of the library and archive, both 
in terms of how it is changing and how it OUGHT to change.

There is no clear picture of these changes in Europe. Neither is there 
any clear guidance on best practice or even an overall picture of what 
those practices might be.20


The major objectives of the project are:

 1.. to produce an overview of the current contribution of libraries 
and archives to the promotion and safeguarding of minority languages. 
This will include20

 1.. collecting policies of both national and regional libraries

 2.. catalogues of relevant material and their accessibility to the 

 3.. publishing programmes of relevant libraries and archives

 4.. websites available in the minority languages

 5.. library contributions to websites and access provided to them by 

 1.. to identify best practice in these areas by analysis of activities 
and comparison with other areas of library and archive activity. This 
would include, for example, comparison with library information services 
in the fields of health, social security, disability or cultural 
 2.. To produce a manual of best practice giving guidance and 
suggestions for libraries serving minority language groups to help them 
develop services in the future. This would include
 1.. establishing a collection management policy including co-operation 
with other libraries either nationally or regionally
 2.. providing information on the collections held by libraries and 
archives either in electronic form or by using publicity such as printed 
analytical lists
 3.. ways in which libraries and archives can publish material in their 
collections which has not previously been made available to the public 
or re-publish older material in their collections which is inaccessible 
because of administrative limitations, lack of space for readers or the 
condition of the original material
 4.. establishment of websites by the library or archive itself to 
promote the language concerned or the best ways to participate in the 
development of regional or language-focused websites that are relevant
 5.. liaison with local radio and TV stations to make known the 
contents of their collections and encourage their use in broadcasting 
(use of local poems, little-known literary works, songs and music)

(for timetable see the main application form)

 1.. Identify libraries and archives which (a) do or (b) should play a 
major role in promoting minority languages. This will be done by 
consultation with supporting organisations in France, Spain, Norway, the 
United Kingdom and Germany, and others will be encouraged to assist as 
the project progresses.
 2.. Develop a questionnaire to form the basis of detailed discussions 
with appropriate libraries and archives. This would aim to discover what 
activities are being carried out as described in "Objectives" (above) 
 3.. Carry out interviews with selected libraries and archives to gain 
in-depth understanding of what they are doing or why they are not doing 
certain things.20
 4.. Preparation of a narrative report describing the current situation 
in Europe of library and archives services to minority language groups, 
highlighting areas of good practice and also areas of weakness, either 
in terms of services offered or geographically.
 5.. Prepare a best practice guide to give help to those wishing to 
being offering services or improve existing ones.
 6.. All reports and final materials would be available both in paper 
form and on an appropriate website. It is hoped that the documents would 
be issued free of charge.
Anticipated results

The reports mentioned in "Workplan" above in section 6 would be a major 
result. It is anticipated that these would lead to an overall 
improvement in both the awareness and understanding of the necessity of 
libraries and archives playing a major role in the promotion and 
safeguarding of minority languages throughout Europe.20

Further details can be obtained from

Graham P Cornish

Director, IFLA UAP Programme

C/o British Library

Boston Spa


West Yorkshire LS23 7BQ

United Kingdom

Tel +44 1937 546123; fax +44 1937 546478; email
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