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Students, teacher excited for French ebooks

Richmond Public Library promises to start a French ebook collection in 2015
French class
Grade 9 London secondary French students are excited to get their hands on ebooks from the Richmond Public Library. May 2015.

After a four-year wait, Richmond residents can finally expect to see some French ebooks at the Richmond Public Library.

The library had chosen an ebook distributor that only initially sold mostly English ebooks and some Chinese ones, according to deputy chief librarian Susan Walters.

“In 2014 we started offering Chinese ebooks based on member feedback. So, we started the Chinese collection, now we are starting to build the French collection,” she said.

That news has delighted Steveston-London secondary French teacher Marina Carter, as well as her students.

“I walked into the library and realized they had no French ebooks. It’s just something that would be nice for our students to have access to,” said Carter, who said, when asked, the library should have a social responsibility to make ebooks available in both official languages.

Walters said while the library’s number one priority is “strong English resources,” it must balance that with demand.

"Because we have a large Chinese community it is important to recognize this and have new immigrants feel welcome," said Walters, who said there was “some” demand for French.

The library chose distributor Overdrive as its ebook vendor. Overdrive now has about 12,000 ebooks in French, as it has chosen to tap into the Quebec market, said Walters.

Walters said the library had, to date, chosen not to purchase ebooks translated from English to French (such as Harry Potter).

Carter said any French books would be welcome and helpful, particularly children’s books and intermediate novels.

The library is in a state of transition, trying to maintain its hard copy stock while providing ebooks — digital files viewable on devices such as an iPad, Galaxy or Kindle — that can often cost ten times more than a hard copy book.

As a result, since 2011, the library has been able to procure 12,554 English ebooks and 1,674 Chinese ebooks.

A look at other regional libraries shows Richmond’s is leading the way in serving its immigrant population; most have next to no Chinese ebooks, while Surrey’s library has just 300. Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby libraries have a combined nine French ebooks.

“We will have a French collection by the end of the year,” confirmed Walters, who said the library has “upped the ante” on French immersion resources recently.

The library has a budget of 9.4 million, $400,000 of which comes from provincial and federal funds, as it is largely funded by the City of Richmond.


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