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Creating a bilingual library information environment for foreign users

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Purpose ‐ The number of international students and overseas faculty in Tsinghua University in Beijing has grown rapidly in recent years. How to help foreign users overcome the language barrier and make a full use of the library is a realistic problem that is encountered by many libraries. This paper aims to introduce an exploration of Tsinghua University Library experiences and to give some suggestions for the future. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper first describes the large influx of international students and then analyzes the information needs of foreign users by showing the results of a user survey conducted by the Tsinghua University Library in 2007. The library has made a great effort in creating a bilingual information environment for foreign users. A full spectrum of practices is presented in respect of resource, service, infrastructure and the English skill of librarians, etc. Findings ‐ Foreign users have multi-level needs for libraries and the language need is the most outstanding one. As an integral part of the university community, foreign users share many information requirements with Chinese users. Therefore, the library must try to solve the language problem and enhance its academic support functions at the same time. Practical implications ‐ Libraries in non-English-speaking countries can do a lot to help foreign users with limited local language competency to make use of the library. Building a bilingual information environment is comprehensive systems engineering with many aspects involved. Originality/value ‐ This paper makes useful suggestions for creating a bilingual library information environment for foreign users of today and also provides tips for future improvement.
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Keywords: China; Languages; Library users; Overseas students; University libraries

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 10, 2009

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