Thoughts on My Journal

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This analytical and reflective journal on the exploration of multilingual information access could be improved in so many different ways.  Multilingual information access, it seems, is such a broad topic.  I got stuck on my writing many times because I didn’t know where to begin and end on my entries.  Since I decided to create a journal, I figured that it would be all right if I didn’t focus so much on producing a project that had a solid thesis statement or argument.  I made it more of a product of free-writing, if you will.

When I started this journal, I wanted to document my findings, but it was actually much more difficult than I thought.  I didn’t know if I wanted to record my thoughts while exploring the ICDL or after exploring it.  I wanted to keep my entries consistent, but I ended up not writing much about my personal experience with the ICDL anyway.

One aspect that I wanted to focus on was the ICDL’s multilingual metadata and catalog; I wanted to tie these two elements back to multilingual information access in some way.  While I was working on this project, I realized that there wasn’t much I could have written about it, though.  Yes, the ICDL offers a unique catalog where books are labeled in non-traditional ways, but I wish I could have had access to some metadata examples.  With examples, I think I could have written an analysis in greater depth.  Of course, this is just my personal view.

At this point, I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about my journal.  Perhaps it is a work-in-progress, a project that is open to edits and refinement.  Despite my ambivalence, I still found this journal to be a worthwhile project.

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The ICDL as a Project

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Although I only briefly explored multilingual information access in the International Children’s Digital Library, it was fun learning about creating and sustaining multilingual digital libraries.  Information is important, yes, but if it exists in a language that is unknown to the viewer, then it is essentially useless because it cannot be understood.

The ICDL is such an inspirational project.  I appreciate its dedication to multilingualism and multiculturalism, for I believe these are values that must be protected, especially in today’s world.  Resources hold much more significance when they resonate with users.  I am bilingual, but I almost never search for information in my native language.  Performing searches in English generates greater results for me and it’s much more convenient.  The ICDL’s efforts in designing and implementing various user interfaces in different languages is superb.

After roaming around the website, I have gathered some ideas that address the needs and expectations of multilingual library users, essential elements in designing and developing multilingual interfaces, and challenges of creating multilingual interfaces.

In terms of determining what exactly the needs and expectations are for multilingual users, there is no single answer.  Volunteers must be able to translate content accurately because information often gets lost in translation.  Children might not be able to tell whether or not a translation is of high quality, but it is still necessary for the ICDL to provide the best information they possibly can.  The ICDL is already working on this, it seems, but to have the entire website (instead of just books) available in different languages would be beneficial.

In designing and developing multilingual interfaces, there are many elements that can contribute to their success.  This is a much more general suggestion, but I think it would be wise to insert a search bar directly on the ICDL’s home page instead of requiring users to click on a link in order to perform a search.  Of course, allowing users to search in their preferred language or languages would still apply.

Challenges will always exist, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be overcome.  The ICDL will have to continue thinking about how to serve multilingual and multicultural children, particularly those who are visually impaired, deaf, and so on.  This, of course, requires the continuation of collaboration, a component that is vital to the ICDL’s success.

Application of Technologies

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In the context of technologies, it is difficult to identify exactly what the ICDL uses to make the library website functional.  Hutchinson et. al (2005) indicate that all four search interfaces (Simple, Advanced, Keyword, Location)  are “implemented with Java Servlet technology, use only HTML and JavaScript on the client side, and can run on a 56K modem.”  This information might be a bit outdated, but it still seems relevant.

Hutchinson et. al (2005) continue:

All of these methods search the library for books with matching metadata.  Users can then read the book using a variety of book readers, including standard HTML pages and more elaborate Java-based tools developed by the ICDL team that present book pages in comic or spiral layouts…In addition to the public interface, ICDL also includes a private Web site that was developed for book contributors to enter bibliographic metadata about the books they provide to the library.

It is difficult to identify the technologies the ICDL implements, but it would be a wise idea to  perform more research, specifically by contacting an ICDL representative.

Services Offered

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The ICDL has a simple, yet unique user interface.  Looking at the ICDL’s home page, visitors can instantly tell that the interface is designed for young readers.  Everything that is visible to the eye is short and simple, arranged in an orderly way.  The name of the digital library itself is at the very top; the text color is red, emboldened and capitalized, making it pop out.  Beneath the library’s name, “A Library for the Children’s World” is presented.  Visitors have the option to switch the home page to Español (Spanish), Français (French), Монгол (Mongolian), and Русский (Russian).  Among these four, the Mongolian version is the shortest and simplest.  What is interesting to note about the other three versions is that they lack the shiny “READ BOOKS!” icon underneath the banner. The ICDL’s home page contains many helpful links that can guide and inform users in their exploration.

How are the ICDL’s books cataloged?  The ICDL utilizes non-traditional cataloging structures (Hutchinson et. al, 2005).  Books are cataloged by unique categories such as age, language, cover colors, shape, characters, feeling, culture and society, etc.  This is an incredibly special cataloging format and I have never seen any library catalogs use these labels before.  Discovering books is bound to be an adventure.

The Simple Search interface is the most popular choice among visitors of the ICDL.  The icons are very colorful and visually appealing to the eye.  Books are categorized by cover colors, age, fiction/nonfiction, characters, picture/chapter books, and so on.  The drop-down menu allows a user to search the catalog for books listed in the language or languages selected.  Children would probably find Simple Search to be the most fun.  For example, if a user wants to specify a search by clicking on “Red Covers,” a crawling green caterpillar will pop up while the page is still loading results with text that states “Searching for books…please wait.”

The Advanced Search interface is the second most popular choice (and it’s also my default interface).  It offers a keyword search, but the keyword search can also be accessed via the main page without the Advanced Search options.  In the Advanced Search interface, of course, keyword search is the only option and this is understandable because it is meant to be used by children.  Keyword searches can be performed in a variety of languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and so on.

The Location Search interface is not as commonly selected as Simple Search and Advanced Search.  Location Search is, of course, very easy.  Clicking on the arrow will spin the globe and bring viewers to different parts of the world, mainly by continent.  If patrons hover over a certain continent, it will light up and provide the continent’s name, providing a hyperlink to a results page that consists of books cataloged under the region selected.

Children’s Literature Collection

There are six collections of children’s literature that are available via the ICDL.  There is the Main Collection (1858 books), Baldwin Collection (1986 books), CLRC Collection (30 books), Google Books Collection (106 books), Jordan Collection (735 books), and NCLC Collection (141 books).  For brief summaries of all six collections, click here.  The ICDL currently has more than 4800 books in over 50 languages and is constantly working to expand the number of books and languages in existing collections.

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Users of the ICDL

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Users from all countries can access the ICDL.  The ICDL is primarily designed for children, but anyone and everyone can use it.  To be more specific, the ICDL’s target audiences are: “children three to thirteen years of age and the adults who work with them, as well as international scholars who study children’s literature” (Hutchinson et. al, 2005).  There truly are no limitations to user types.  What the ICDL hopes to accomplish is to make reading materials available to children, encouraging them to embrace the multilingual and multicultural aspects that make up their identities.  With the help of adults, children can definitely do this.

Funding and Support of Partners Sustain the Growth of the ICDL

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Funding for the ICDL comes from many different sponsors and partners.  Of course, anyone has the ability to donate—just enter the ICDL’s website and locate the “SUPPORT THE LIBRARY” section in pink.  Clicking on “MAKE A DONATION” will direct individuals to PayPal and they can proceed from there.

Funding for the ICDL comes from, as indicated by Budzise et. al (2012), “[e]ducational institutions, donors, and [the] government.”  Funding is of utmost importance when trying to kick-start and sustain a project.  The ICDL is supported by “publishers, library sponsors, the National Science Foundation, Microsoft, Adobe Systems Incorporated, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services” (Budzise et. al, 2012).  Major partner organizations are the American Library Association (ALA), Center for the Book, International Youth Library (IJB), Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section/International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), and Library of Congress (LOC).

Collaboration is a critical aspect of the International Children’s Library.  Team members speak different languages and come from different cultures:

Adult team members are native or fluent speakers of a number of languages besides English, and are working with school children and their teachers and librarians…to study how different cultures use both physical and digital libraries…and to understand how children who speak different languages can communicate and learn about each other’s cultures through sharing books. (Hutchinson et. al, 2005, p.6)

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