Multilingual Library


Last week, we took a look at Borderline Books, a branch of the Kittiwake Trust. This week, we’ll be continuing our interview with Amina Marix Evans, exploring another side of this bookish charity – the Multilingual Library.

How did the Multilingual Library get started?

The Multilingual Library grew out of Borderline Books. We had students sorting books and one of them pointed out that we had more books in foreign languages than a university.

Universities were tossing out hundreds of books because everything was available online. But we knew that not everybody could get online. So we immediately stopped giving away the foreign language books, created lending slips for them and started a library.

Who donate foreign language books?

We get some donations from authors. When their book is translated they receive copies and many don’t want to store all of them. We wrote a letter to the editor of the Society of Authors’ magazine explaining the Multilingual Library and asking for donations of their extra foreign language copies. The first was Geraldine McCaughrean who sent us about eight big boxes of books. Mark Haddon has also been brilliant. I’d never seen so many copies of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night in so many languages and so many editions.

Aside from providing foreign language books how else does the Multilingual Library help people?

We have some language classes in our own library and we also like to advertise other local language schools as well. We’re trying to create a strong list of online language learning resources on our website.

People can also volunteer at the Multilingual Library and get practice speaking English in a workplace. We pair native English speakers with people who speak other languages – works really well.

We hope to make people feel hugely welcome in our charity. Especially with non-native English speakers who have struggled to overcome the language barrier, the Multilingual Library is a place where their first language is an asset. People can help and catalogue the books, something we can’t do ourselves because we don’t know that script. For many, our charity has become a ‘safe haven’ as people know they are accepted, no matter what language they speak. They know we’re always interested in other cultures and how people do things.

Do you know of any other Multilingual Libraries?

Our patron David Crystal actually asked me the same question not long ago. I do know of one that’s planning to start in Inverness, but otherwise – no. That’s why we need other people’s help. This is a really important resource for people and we’d be happy to give anyone advice on how to set up their own local Multilingual Library.


Click here to get in touch with the Multilingual Library, or learn more about volunteering, and book donations.