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.