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Multicultural Initiatives, Strategic Office
Library and Archives Canada
Consultation participants noted that libraries are well utilized by the Chinese community in Vancouver and that the city is well served by libraries offering Chinese materials. According to participant service providers, Chinese titles are some of the most circulated materials within the Vancouver Public Library system. A cross-section of the population (including youth, the elderly and women) accesses libraries. Heavy usage by children and students was said to reflect the importance of academic performance and parental expectation in many cases.
Within the community, libraries and books are often considered tools for research purposes rather than professional interests. Working professionals were described as irregular visitors to libraries due to employment commitments, though many access libraries remotely via the Internet. Chinese immigrants tend to be aware that libraries offer something for them and many visit a public library soon after arrival in Canada.
Participants noted the importance of branch libraries and the convenience they provide to local communities. Still, guests said that libraries need to make clear just how collections are distributed across the Vancouver Public Library system (i.e. which branch obtains which collections?) Users value the ability to access a central system to explore collections beyond those available at the local branch library level. Guests suggested the need to develop collections that feature materials from Mainland China; while many community members have moved to Canada from this region, few materials are sourced directly from the area.
Instead, guests noted that a majority of resources originate in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Diverse resources would serve to acknowledge the Chinese in different communities (whether those with ties to Taiwan, Mainland China or Hong Kong) and would underscore the heterogeneous nature of the community. More formal and established access to international markets is required to support this collection development activity. Guests also thought it important to translate books published in Canada into languages other than English and French.
Participants noted that the Chinese community donates a large number of books to public libraries but said a more sustainable process is needed to see that appropriate materials find their way to library shelves. Guests expressed some concern over the quality of simplified Chinese books found in libraries and felt that more funds need to be directed toward these materials. Participant service providers noted difficulties in sourcing suppliers of these resources. A broader range of technical content is also desired by community patrons.
Guests said that Web-based library catalogues must be improved to facilitate broad access in Chinese; this was described as a considerable need within the community. It was suggested that the Internet might also be promoted as a search tool that provides access to library resources. Still, while youth and professionals may be regular users of the Internet, older generations often lack computer skills of any kind.
Participants said that formal archives are seldom utilized by the Chinese community in Vancouver, and that few community members are aware of archives. Guests noted that the experiences of newcomers to Canada have not always been well documented. Still, there is developing interest in this area. Within the community, there is also great interest in the topic of oral history. The goal now is to capture and disseminate this history, ideally in a digitized form. Assistance and expertise is required to both capture these materials and make them accessible.
It was noted that some community members have been storing archival community information as they await the development of an organized effort to bring these materials together. Guests noted an increased interest in Chinese genealogy and suggested this as a future area of focus. Resources are required to digitize materials and make them widely available. There is also need to document the progress of Vancouver's Chinatown and its historical value.
Across the board, participants felt that Library and Archives Canada was unknown to the Chinese Canadian community in Vancouver. LAC was urged to demonstrate its regional relevance and to do so by moving toward a more concrete strategy at the local level. A higher profile for the institution is required and can only be fostered through active outreach.
Service providers noted the value of the existing Multicultural Resources and Services Toolkit11 for professionals. LAC is regarded as a potential facilitator with a national coordinating role to play. The institution was urged to improve and promote its current services. It was suggested that one way of doing this might be to forward (via email) legal deposit information to service providers so libraries are aware of publishers and the scope of materials published. Other communications tools, in multiple languages, were encouraged such as, "Top Ten" lists featuring new and/or unique materials of potential interest to the community.
Respondents said that Library and Archives Canada could do more to make its resources known to the Chinese community in Vancouver. LAC is encouraged to explore the following marketing avenues: