Magazine article Information Today

Bilingual Library Automation: Initiatives in Canada

Magazine article Information Today

Bilingual Library Automation: Initiatives in Canada

Article excerpt

Bilingual Library Automation: Initiatives in Canada

In my November column, I provided the background to the first annual Computers in Libraries Canada conference held in October in Toronto. The conference, which attracted registrants from every province and territory, offered Canadian professionals an opportunity to examine many facets of library automation and to share their experiences with colleagues.

The first presenter at one of two General Sessions, Frank Kirkwood, set the stage for the conference as a whole in his story of "How is Canada Different." A complete report of Kirkwood's thoughts appears in the November column along with a synopsis of another presentation by Bobbie Merrilees, well-known library automation consultant and compiler of an annual automation round-up published in Canadian Library Journal.

For both speakers, multilingual and multiscript databases was the central issue in order to appreciate and understand current development in Canadian library automation. Pointing to its history, Kirkwood noted that Canada has a great willingness to compromise and the lack of a tendency to go out and conquer the world. As a result, Kirkwood opined, Canada has created a sort of "electronic federalism of information."

Furthermore, Kirkwood is convinced that Canada is in an ideal position for its libraries to play a central role in the multilingual world information network in the next century.

Almost every speaker at the General Sessions was obliged to confront the realities of bilingualism as a driving force in Canadian library automation. But one of them, John Richardson--National Accounts Manager for Sobeco, described the difficulties of coping with it from the perspective of a systems developer.

The Sobeco Group has developed a software package called MultiLIS, an integrated library system. Presently, MultiLIS has 43 systems installed or to be installed in English, and a larger number, 53, in French.

MultiLIS was first developed in the Frecnch language--at the University of Quebec in Montreal--and then ported to English, in direct contrast to other bilingual systems. There is some consideration to porting it to other languages at a future date.


Richardson noted the following key issues in bilingual functionality:

* documentation issues;

* hardware issues;

* programming issues;

* software functionality, and;

* support issues

Documentation Issues

According to Richardson, the first step to the creation of bilingual documentation is to hire translators. "These translators need to be bilingual librarians who have the sensitivity to understand both the message and the context of the message they are working on," he said.

"The problem is compounded because the vendor must keep the system current in two languages. New software documentation must be published in two languages whenever changes are made or a new system is released, which happens two or three times a year in our case." Richardson opined that "it is a battle we will never win."

Hardware Issues

MultiLIS supports the DEC VT-220 or VT-320 terminals which are only a bit more expensive than standard U.S. ASCII terminals which cannot support diacritics. The most efficient way to catalogue in another language is with the use of a keyboard tailored to that language. …

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