What are the mission and goals of the International Children’s Digital Library?
I mentioned in a previous post—the post about exploring multilingual information access—that the ICDL’s mission is to create a collection of children’s literature in as many languages as possible, paying great attention to quality. The ICDL encourages children to critically think about what it means to be a global citizen who tolerates and respects diversity. Languages, cultures, traditions, ideas, values, histories, and many other elements are all essential aspects of diversity. Although it is primarily targeted toward children, individuals of all ages can access the ICDL at no cost.
The ICDL states that “children and their families deserve to have access to the books of their culture, as well as the majority culture, regardless of where they live.” Although the ICDL has very good intentions, the term “deserve” popped out at me. In my opinion, “deserve” gives off a bad/negative vibe because it seems to be associated with worth. The Oxford Dictionaries’ definition for “deserve” is: “Do something or have or show qualities worthy of (a reaction which rewards or punishes as appropriate).” I wonder how the statement’s meaning would alter with the use of different terms.
Information access—multilingual information access—is a critical component of the ICDL’s interface. Human beings have the inherent right to information. To deny an individual information is, perhaps, equivalent to committing a crime. The ICDL strongly believes that the world is a much richer place when all languages and cultures are valued.
Before diving into the ICDL’s key features, I thought it would be interesting to briefly cover the ICDL’s metadata instructions. Metadata is crucial, for patrons would be unable to discover and retrieve sources without it.
The ICDL aims to build a large collection of children’s literature, but it is much more concerned with quality than quantity. With diversity being at its very core, metadata must be free of errors as much as possible. This doesn’t mean that the metadata that’s already been provided cannot be altered or updated—it just means that the information provided must be correct so as to avoid any potential problems in the library catalog for users. Users are inconvenienced when they are unable to locate the sources for which they’re looking. Not having a particular source in the library system is understandable, but having a source without accurate metadata in the system is another story altogether. Digital libraries don’t have to worry as much about having metadata available in more than one language. Multilingual digital libraries, such as the ICDL, face greater challenges than regular digital libraries because they are providing for a diverse audience.
When providing metadata to the ICDL, it is required for contributors to present the metadata in the language of the book and, of course, submit it. There are two other routes that contributors can take, but they are optional: translating metadata to English and transliterating. The ICDL’s metadata instructions are very detailed; for additional information, see the metadata specification page. If time allows, I will examine the ICDL’s metadata policies in greater depth later.
In Budzise et. al’s (2012) case study on collaboration and crowdsourcing, these aspects were analyzed in order to determine key elements of multilingual digital libraries: mission and goals, funding, partners, users, collections, services, and technologies. Budzise et. al (2012) indicate in their study that the framework they utilized was based upon digital library evaluation practices—looking at the content, interface, and services. I will be following their approach in my exploration of multilingual information access in the ICDL.
As I began conducting my research on multilingual information access, specifically in digital libraries, I quickly discovered that the amount of research performed on this particular topic was lacking. I hope that my analytical and reflective journal will shed some light on multilingual information access and serve as a worthwhile resource for library and information professionals who share an interest in multilingualism, information access, and digital libraries.
There are three areas of focus that will guide me through my research: the needs and expectations of multilingual library users, the essential elements in designing and developing a multilingual interface, and the challenges of creating a multilingual interface.
Since the number of multilingual digital libraries is so limited, I decided to center my research on the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL). The ICDL is an online library that is universally available to children and adults of all ages. It first began in 2002 by the University of Maryland and continues to be run by the university in partnership with various organizations and entities today. One of the ICDL’s main emphases is on serving a “multilingual, multicultural, and multigenerational audience” (Hutchinson et al., 2005) and its book collection consists of a wide range of children’s literature in a myriad of languages. The ICDL asserts in its mission statement that despite educational initiatives, language barriers render it difficult for individuals throughout the world to achieve success. Its ultimate goal, then, is “to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world” and “to have every culture and language represented so that every child can know and appreciate the riches of children’s literature from the world community” (International Children’s Digital Library, n.d.).
As a child of immigrant parents, the mission of the International Children’s Digital Library truly called out to me. This statement in particular resonated with me: “As families move…[i]t may be difficult, if not impossible, to find children’s books from their cultures and in their mother tongue. Parents have little access to the books and stories from their youth to pass on to the next generation. Many children must grow up without knowledge of their family’s heritage and first language.” The ICDL’s words here, in my opinion, require no further explanation. In my view, it is an accurate statement about the loss of language, culture, traditions, and values as families leave their homeland for a new life elsewhere. It is a privilege to be able to have access to the ICDL, a wonderful, inclusive digital library that contains children’s literature from all across the globe.
Language is unique, for it reflects and links different cultures and stimulates lifelong learning. For many individuals, English is not their native language. English might be one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, but not everyone comprehends it. With that being said, it is necessary for digital libraries to offer digitized materials in a variety of languages in order for patrons to truly make the most out of their resources. Digital libraries that implement a wide range of languages are no longer just ordinary digital libraries—they’ve become multilingual digital libraries, a much more enhanced and inclusive version. Nichols et. al assert, “Multilingual digital libraries, which allow users to access digital collections using different languages, provide a portal for strengthening individual cultures, promoting diversity, and enhancing global information infrastructure by highlighting underrepresented languages in worldly communities.” To the marginalized languages and cultures, multilingual digital libraries serve as a source of empowerment. They encourage individuals to embrace the similarities and differences that exist in the world. To simply put it, multilingual digital libraries promote global awareness, connecting individuals from all walks of life, and fosters critical thinking skills that are essential to everyday life and learning.
What is a digital library? There is no single definition for this term, for it can be defined in a variety of ways. To start off, I will provide my own definition of what a digital library is: an online collection of digitized materials. Indeed, my definition is short and simple, still very broad.
Let’s delve a bit deeper. “A digital library, a collection of information which is both digitized and organized, gives us power we never had with traditional libraries,” says Lesk (2005). Digital libraries, of course, do not mean to belittle traditional libraries in any way whatsoever. Kresh et. al (2007) state, “A digital library is a library in which a significant proportion of the resources are available in machine-readable format (as opposed to print or microform), accessible by means of computers.” Arms (2016) indicates that “a digital library is a managed collection of information, with associated services, where the information is stored in digital formats and accessible over a network.” All of these sources provide a general overview of what constitutes a digital library. The online digitization of materials is significant because it allows users—potentially from all around the world—to access sources via the Internet simultaneously. Like any library (or archive, museum, and other related settings), library and information science professionals, technology, access, and preservation in a digital library are crucial to its vitality. Digital libraries don’t hold much meaning for individuals when content is displayed in an unknown language, though, making the provision of information in different languages a very important value.