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.