I’m an anglophone living in a multicultural society. With two official languages in Canada and a mozaic of other cultures and nationalities, it is only fitting that the library collect materials of numerous languages.
Because I am responsible for cataloguing the multilingual collection, I must find ways around my own lanugage limitations. There is no copy available for over 90% of the mulilingual collection that we have. Thankfully, I can read Spanish and Italian. Also, thankfully, I am surrounded by fellow colleagues who speak French – the other official language of Canada. As well, there is a wonderful woman in our processing department from China, who translates the Chinese books based on an in-house form we’ve created. This form provides us with all of the necessary information for cataloguing including: title, author, publication information, language (ie. simplified or traditional Chinese) and a summary.
Many staff members throughout the branches contribute to the cataloguing process in this way. Unfortunately, at this time, I have found no one to assist in the translation of Farsi and Arabic materials. These are also the collections we are bulking up on, given the expansion of this diverse community.
I have to admit, my first experience in cataloguing a book in Arabic was painful. It took me forever. The text looked more like beautiful artwork and I continually wanted to hold and read the book as if it written in our western style. With no more than an odd looking ISBN for each book, I was given the task of cataloguing it. All of it. I don’t even want to remember how long that first batch of books took!
Today, with over a year’s experience in cataloguing this collection, I’m finding it much easier. (However, I’ll be the first to admit that I still have A LOT to learn). The books are familiar and I’ve learned how to read both Arabic and Farsi numerals. This helps tremendously when deciphering ISBNS, dates of publications and page numbers. I’m also gaining familiarity with book distributors of multilingual materials and often refer to their websites when seeking book information.
Many vendors, if you ask, will provide you with an invoice that lists the author, title, genre and date of publication. This is extremely helpful and I’m thankful to those lovely people in acquisitions who remember me and provide me with a copy of the invoice.
Although cataloguing in any language other than your own can be difficult, it can be made even more challenging in languages that do not use western characters. The following is a list of resources I use to assist me in cataloguing Farsi and Arabic lanugage materials. There aren’t that many, but I find them helpful. If any of you can suggest additional resources, please do so.