Australian stories travel the world

Australian stories travel the world

An important part of the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature’s (NCACL) collection are the 4700 books that have been translated into 65 languages and countries of origin. Not only are these an important part of authors’ and illustrators’ body of work, but they also reflect the global impact of Australian children’s literature and the universality of stories. Many of these NCACL books are not held in any other library in Australia.

Most of these have been catalogued and appear on the Libraries Australia online database. This is the major source of information about books by Australian authors regardless of language. It means that anyone, anywhere, wanting to read or study the books can discover where they are located.

Cataloguing books in languages other than English is a specialist task that requires knowledge of the particular language. We need to outsource their cataloguing to CAVAL, the professional service located in Melbourne. Authors, illustrators, publishers and literary agents are our main source of these translations. Occasionally we find them at the Lifeline Book Fair or used bookshops. Over the last few years, we accumulated 572 translations in 26 languages. Our collection of these has been described as ‘significant’ by an independent assessor. We needed to take action again!

Back in 2010 we had accumulated 470 books in 28 languages. What to do? We thought perhaps Embassies might be interested in covering the cost for cataloguing the books in its own language. After contacting each Embassy, seven responded positively as did the Japan Australia Foundation and the Scandinavian Australian Association. With additional donations from individuals and a publisher, we had the needed funds.

Following this success we used the same approach for the 2019 backlog. We wrote letters to 24 Ambassadors and to the Dean of the Diplomatic Core explaining our project and seeking their support. We followed up each letter with a phone call a short time later. We discovered that many did not understand what cataloguing involved and its importance. After some perseverance and much explaining six Embassies and a language program in Sydney offered assistance. We also sent out our newsletter requesting donations, and 24 individuals and KPMG also donated. Success!

There’s more – we don’t send the books to CAVAL in Melbourne. Instead we photocopy the title page and verso of each book and complete a form detailing each book’s unique features. These are then posted to CAVAL. The process is laborious but the NCACL volunteers are up for the challenge. We heard that the box of photocopies arrived today in Melbourne. Luckily, CAVAL staff will be posted the photocopies to their various homes as many workers are in lockdown due to COVID-19.

We are very grateful to all our supporters for this very important venture. More details are available from here.