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How Forsyth County library is responding to area's growing diversity
The Forsyth County Public Library voted Jan. 22, 2020, to expand its World Languages Collection. - photo by Brian Paglia

The Forsyth County Public Library has decided to expand its collection of foreign language materials, reflecting the increasing diversity of the area.

The library’s board voted Jan. 22 to expand its World Languages Collection to include fiction and nonfiction adult materials in Korean and Marathi, a language common in India, as well as add youth titles to existing collections of Tamil and Telugu materials, two other languages spoken in India.

In addition, the library will offer e-book titles in French and German.

The Forsyth County Public Library has offered materials in foreign languages for years. Spanish first came to the Cumming branch “many, many years ago,” said Stephen Kight, deputy director of Forsyth County Public Library. Spanish materials then expanded to Post Road several years ago and Hampton Park in 2018.

The library’s World Languages Collection was created in response to a patron survey conducted in 2016. The collection started with 500 titles in four languages: Hindi, Mandarin, Tamil and Telugu.

All four are major languages in countries in Asia, and three (Hindi, Tamil and Telugu) are spoken in India, reflecting the county’s rapid growth of Asian-American residents. Forsyth County had the fastest-growing Asian population in the country between 2017 and 2018 among counties with a total population of 20,000 or more with an increase of 11.5% (3,408) in residents who identify as Asian, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Though World Languages is smaller than more traditional collections, it’s in demand, according to Jeff Fisher, material services manager with the library.

“You’ll see some huge check-out percentages,” Fisher said.

The library’s most recent patron survey, in 2019, convinced staff that it was time to expand the World Languages Collection. They will purchase 250 adult titles each in Korean and Marathi, and 50 youth titles in Tamil and Telugu.

The survey found that interest in French and German materials was equal across its branches, so the library decided to begin that collection with electronic resources.

“The nice thing about that is anybody in the county can access to that immediately,” Kight said.

With the exception of Spanish, the World Languages Collection is housed at Sharon Forks Library, but materials are available county-wide through the library’s hold system and online for electronic resources.