The role of public libraries as a welcoming public space to everyone and an important entity dedicated to preserving cultural heritage in local communities is undeniable. From developing an appreciation for and understanding of the ethnic groups that comprise current and potential users and library collections, public libraries represent the pluralistic populations they serve. The consistent efforts by the State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW) to support public libraries with the acquisition of library material in forty-nine languages, as well as coordinating the cataloguing processing of such material as a free service for those NSW public libraries electing to participate, are highly commendable. However, it remains crucial for public libraries to adapt to the changing needs of patrons by addressing access, equity and social justice by working directly with individuals, groups and communities.

By referring to one burgeoning ethnic group in the Riverina region of NSW, this interdisciplinary research team of social work and information studies academics presents how the rapidly growing Punjabi Indian community was involved in embracing their cultural identity at the Wagga Wagga City Library. With Punjabi remaining as one of Australia's fastest-growing languages and among the top 10 of the most spoken languages of Australia, the research team designed and facilitated an anonymous bilingual online community survey to gather information on the current use of the local public library and what they would like to see in community activities and the library collection.
Descriptive statistics were used to summarise socio-demographic and cultural identity-related characteristics and respondents' interest in library collections and community activities. Results from 35 respondents to the survey showed that while over half of respondents were members of the library, they only visited sometimes, rarely, or never. Respondents also noted that they wanted to have a stronger Punjabi language collection, particularly for children to “to stay connected with their roots” as well as relevant community activities like Punjabi language classes for children and a social group for adults. The attendance numbers at the community activities and circulation statistics of the newly introduced Punjabi books were noted to evaluate the project.
With funding and cataloguing support from SLNSW, the research team sourced 115 new authentic Punjabi books from two Punjabi publishers in India and 20 bilingual (English-Punjabi) books from an Australian supplier which has facilitated increased engagement of the Punjabi community with their public library. Punjabi language classes for children were introduced with various native Punjabi speakers facilitating to preserve intergenerational cultural heritage. Social and craft groups for women have also developed to promote gender equity and opportunities for social cohesion within the community.
Despite the challenges of several lockdowns due to the COVID19, presenters will share specific recommendations for community inclusion, reaching the needs and celebrating the cultural heritage of diverse cultural groups such as the Punjabi Indians through the library collection and services.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventALIA National Conference 2022 - Canberra Convention Centre, Canberra, Australia
Duration: 16 May 202219 May 2022
https://www.alia.org.au/conference (Conference website)


ConferenceALIA National Conference 2022
Abbreviated titleDiversity
OtherALIA provides the platform as a meeting point for all Library and Information professionals, from all sectors and all areas of Australia and the international community. The National Conference provides unparalleled opportunities to become stronger as professionals and as an industry with engaging programs and a forum to collaborate, network and build partnerships amongst our colleagues, peers, industry leaders and corporate partners.
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