Many of the world’s approximately 7000 languages face extinction. While
librarians are concerned with how they can serve users speaking indigenous
languages and seek materials in indigenous languages as means or tools for
reaching out and ensuring the relevance of their services to communities,
linguists and language policy experts are concerned with issues of language
preservation and development. Their emphasis is on the languages, which are
also of interest to scholars and professionals in a variety of other fields. This
article asks how libraries can contribute to the preservation, development and
promotion of indigenous languages. On the basis of literature from various
fields an attempt is made to construct a holistic conceptual framework for
reflection by LIS professionals. Some examples from South African projects are
given to illustrate the possible roles of LIS in the preservation, development and
promotion of indigenous languages.
This is a revised version of a keynote paper presented at the Satellite Conference of
the IFLA Section of University and Research Libraries and the IFLA Section for Latin
America and the Caribbean on the theme “Cooperation among multiple types of
libraries and affiliated information services of archives and museums toward meeting
common goals of sharing”, Guatemala City, Guatemala, 10-11 August 2011.
I thank Francis Galloway, Manichand Baharilal and Nelisa Lunika for their kind
assistance in providing advice and leads.