MyLanguage: State and Territory Public Libraries Collaborating for a Multicultural Australia in the Digital Age

Article excerpt

MyLanguage is a project of seven state and territory library services commenced in 2004. The consortium has a commitment to expanding the possibilities of electronic multicultural library services. An early focus for the project was aggregated nonEnglish language data through the MyLanguage portal www.mylanguage.gov.au. Changing demographics in Australia, combined with a growing emphasis on digital and ICT solutions, has seen a new set of challenges relating to developing and delivering multicultural library services. This is especially in relation to people coming to Australia through humanitarian immigration. Explored are how the MyLanguage project is assisting libraries and community organisations build ownership and capacity to access and develop content that meets the expressed needs of their culturally and linguistically diverse (Cald) communities.

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The MyLanguage project had its genesis in the 2004 Council of Australian State Libraries (Casl) (1) working group on electronic multicultural library services. This group produced a report Languages in transition: towards a national electronic multicultural library service. (2) It identified a number of ways in which libraries, especially public libraries, could access and use online in-language information to support their multilingual communities.

Emerging from the Casl working group in 2005, a joint five year partnership was developed between the state and territory libraries of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. This had the goal of creating an online access point for aggregated multilingual resources with a view to expanding library services for multicultural communities. Seen as a new and exciting way of enriching Australia's linguistic and cultural cyberspace, the seven libraries created the MyLanguage portal which now enables people to search and find information online in nearly 70 languages.

The MyLanguage concept is inspired by three main ideas

* social inclusion for all Australians requires having access to, and publication of, multilingual and multicultural information (3)

* digital inclusion requires that new and emerging communities have access to new technologies and the internet to ensure creation of, and access to, information and resources

* libraries are crucial as gateways to multilingual information resources.

During the first five year plan, the MyLanguage project has been recognised nationally by the Alia Library Stars award (2010) for digital citizenship, as well as internationally as a 2006 finalist in the Stockholm Challenge. (4) In addition MyLanguage was recognised in 2008 as the winner of the national multicultural marketing awards (Microsoft information technology category). (5) These awards indicate the regard with which the MyLanguage project is held within the library sector, as well as the broader information and technology community.

MyLanguage portal structure

Since its inception the MyLanguage site has been able to address a gap in library service provision to Cald communities. Through access to freely available aggregated data in nearly 70 languages, the portal provides access to resources such as search engines, web directories, government websites and updated news headlines, as well as tools such as customised Google search engines, Wikipedia and RSS news feeds in those languages.

The portal, which is central to the project, is designed to deliver information and related library services to multicultural Australia using a number of innovative web development techniques and scripting languages.

These services aim to increase information provision to people from Cald backgrounds by significantly increasing the resources available to public libraries across Australia.

Many Australian public libraries link to the site and find great value in the available resources. …