North American libraries struggle to meet demand for non-English language research materials

ProQuest survey finds that vetting materials and technology shortfalls are hurdles to addressing rising demand for non-English materials

(7 December 2017, Mountain View, CA)  Academic libraries are struggling to meet a rising demand for non-English language content, according to new survey results published by ProQuest. Rising international student enrollments and the popularity of programs that use foreign language content are increasing the importance of foreign language materials in library collections, yet more than a third of respondents say they are falling short in making these resources available to students, faculty and researchers.

ProQuest surveyed more than 177 academic librarians in North America to assess trends in non-English language collection development. Among the survey’s findings:

  • Budget and expertise are common hurdles North American libraries face in meeting users’ needs for non-English language content. Libraries struggle to justify the expense of content that will be used by a small number of users and unless they have the relevant language skills,      they find it challenging to select materials that address researchers’ needs.
  • The greatest unmet content needs are in Chinese, Arabic and Spanish languages.
  • Technological shortfalls hinder users’ access to non-English language materials. Librarians commented that researchers struggle with“unreliable formats and downloads” as well as the lack of “language interface to do searches.” Content can be “lost in a sea of English, on English-only platforms, with English-only licensing agreements.”
  • Diverse non-English language content types are in demand, including newspapers, video, journals and ebooks.
  • Among the top digital formats, 31% of libraries would like to offer non-English language frontlist ebooks, but currently do not. Comparatively, only 25% of libraries currently offer non-English language frontlist ebooks.

“This research confirms the need for solutions that enable libraries to more effectively source comprehensive non-English language content, particularly in Chinese, Arabic and Spanish languages,” said Kevin Sayar, Senior Vice President and General Manager, ProQuest Books. “Just as important is the way the content is accessed: students and researchers need platforms that can be easily navigated and deliver information in useful ways. Without these key elements, learning and research success is at risk.”

Find complete results and analysis of the survey in ProQuest’s whitepaper “Librarians Struggle to Provide Quality Non-English Content.”

The full announcement is here.