The East Asia Library is one of the many libraries available at the University of Washington. It primarily specializes in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese texts. However, they do have material from other regions and languages. The discourse community of EAL is broad and contains people with a wide variety of social and linguistic backgrounds.
Interviewing one of the Chinese study specialists, he classified the primary users of this library into three: people from the Asian language and literature department and the international studies department. “They’re using our materials a lot for research, writing papers, for working on projects.” The second is the community users, where people that “browse the newest uh Korean fiction or, you know, the latest scientific books in Chinese or whatever and we welcome those users as well. The last user group but not least are visiting scholars and people from other national and international institutions who want “ access to the specific materials that are only available here or you know we might be the only library in North America that has the materials or whatever, so we have a lot of people coming specifically to these stuff that we have here”
The orthographies and romanization of materials is a tad haphazardous. He particularly noted that finding material in their online catalog may pose a challenge for Chinese texts and monologues because the UW uses two romanization systems. The older texts use the Wade-Giles and the newer are cataloged according to Pinyin. Pinyin has a much simpler orthography than Wade-Giles, so this presents a hindrance because when a person tries to find a material and they only have the non-romanized title, it will lead to different results.
“They need to Romanize the title in order to search for it in the catalog to figure out where it lives in the library and they need to use the correct romanization because, you know, there are multiple romanization systems that have been used throughout history.”
When EAL users want to promote events, it is all done in English, even if the talk or event will not be in English. The versatility of English and English being a lingua franca allows people to connect. Using English as the forefront of promotion in their flyers and posters speaks to a larger crowd. A person may not know how to read that language, but they can understand it when spoken thus attracting a larger audience. Hosting events using English as their primary mode of communication helps attract people from different backgrounds.
The primary goal of EAL library is to build bridges between cultures, that is their mission statement. “Connecting people with resources, connecting people with each other that foster cross-cultural conversations. We have an event space in the library that we make available to different international studies groups on campus like departments and student groups.”
“As people are learning culture in their classes or learning about the history of their culture, we are able to provide them uhh books and other materials that support that learning and let them learn more than maybe they would just by what they are talking about in class.”
In terms of the collection and materials the library inputs, they are doing a lot to support UW’s international studies community and courses that are taught. By providing space for these groups to study, discuss, and build bridges and connect with one another helps flourish and hone their mission statement. Books and monographs are added every day, in terms of prioritization, the collection is largely driven by “the needs of our student, staff, faculty that we support so based on what courses are being taught, what faculty and students request will be purchased that really influences the materials we purchase”.
In terms of addressing contemporary issues and how English is utilized to spread awareness, the library invites scholars to do research, provide materials and resources. For instance, Tibetan is an endangered language and unfortunately, the Tibetan language isn’t too common in most places. When the researcher stumbled upon UW’s EAL page and found the material he needed. His interest was Tibetan newspaper from a certain era in history. The material was discoverable because of the romanization and categorization in English when he came to retrieve the materials.
This relates to Canagarajah’s idea of spatial repertoires in English as a spatial resource and the claimed competence of Chinese STEM professionals “As people interact over time in situated activities, patterns and conventions do evolve. The relevant semiotic resources would sediment into shared norms (Hopper, 1978). Some scholars are beginning to label these patterns ‘spatial repertoires’ (Fast, 2012; Pennycook & Otsuji, 2015). They are different from grammar in the sense that they involve diverse semiotic resources (Canagarajah, 2018)” English being a language always in translation (Pennycook) will require various systematic approaches when it is translating another language to accommodate the different semiotic resources. As time proceeded, UW changed from the Wade-Giles romanization to Pinyin because Pinyin’s orthography is much simpler to romanize.
The EAL library uses English as a lingua franca to help connect. Being the primary mode of communication, all books are romanized to make finding material for classes or scholars from UW or other institutions much easier.