Panel 11: Libraries and translation studies (Agnes Whitfield)

Whether virtual or real, libraries are an important link in the circulation of translations and knowledge about translations. National and university libraries play a critical role in the conservation of translations over time, as repositories of cultural and textual artefacts, as well as primary and secondary material on translations and translators. With their fundamental mission of bringing readers and texts together, public libraries offer essential spaces for reading translations and encouraging knowledge about translations. Annual conferences of the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) regularly include sessions on topics of considerable potential interest to Translation Studies, including Cataloguing, Library Services to Multicultural Populations, Classification and Indexing, Acquisition and Collection Development. Although the ways translations are catalogued, acquired, promoted and displayed at libraries can have major impacts on the circulation o! f translations and the accessibility of research material on translations and translators, Translation Studies has not yet explored in any depth links with this important sister discipline.

By bringing together scholars in Translation Studies and Library Science, and by soliciting papers with a focus on libraries as a central space for translation exchange, this panel seeks to open up new research synergies. Comparative and historical approaches, or papers with a focus on case studies or policy development from a broad range of contexts, are welcome. Questions to be addressed include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • How are translations perceived in Acquisition and Collection Development? How do libraries define the ‘place’ of literary and non literary translations? Is this culture and context dependant? For instance, Canadian research suggests that while public libraries give priority to Canadian literary works, they often privilege original texts over translations. This impedes accessibility for readers who cannot access the works in the language of the original, and tends to reinforce, rather than bridge, cultural divides. Does a corresponding priority to authorship apply to the acquisition of personal archives? How do libraries contribute to the circulation of translations in contexts of oral vs. written cultures?
  • How do current methods of cataloguing and indexing both reflect and affect the status and circulation of translations and information on translators? Researchers seeking to develop a bibliography for a particular translator know well how frustrating current indexing systems can be. Papers here might include case studies on policy development, cataloguing methods, and the hegemonic dimensions of indexing tools.
  • Public libraries in many countries, particularly in multicultural metropolitan centres, are increasingly involved in intercultural mediation and literacy. What space is given to translations in the multicultural library? Topics here might include the use of literary translations as tools for cross-cultural literacy and intergenerational cultural exchange in contexts of immigration.
  • Historically, libraries have contributed, through their existence as a physical space, to the exchange of cultural knowledge and the creation of translations. Libraries, in the symbolic sense, can also be a way to conceptualise cultural heritage. How is literary translation perceived in regional or national initiatives such as the European Library, for instance? How do/can such conceptual translation libraries function to implement or resist hegemonies?
  • How do libraries and librarians promote literary exchange through translations? What does their presence or absence in public, reference or national libraries tell us about the reception of translated texts and the patterns of translation exchange between particular languages/cultures in specific contexts?