Effectiveness of Vernacular Library Orientation Videos in Comparison with the English Language Equivalent

Vernacular language videos with narration in non-English languages have been used in North American academic libraries to engage and empower international and non-native English-speaking students. This study investigated the effectiveness of McGill University Library’s orientation videos from the perspective of these students, using mixed methods to outline student learning, affective responses, and views on audiovisual features used in the video. Compared to the English video, vernacular language videos are equally effective in delivering content and more adept at invoking student enthusiasm about the library. These students’ perceptions on video design and audiovisual features are useful for librarians who use videos to engage a linguistically diverse campus.


Globalization has influenced higher education pervasively. As a result of the remarkable increase of international students entering into North American universities, the diversity profile of students on campus is evolving rapidly. Such diversity not just benefits students in general but draws attention to the emerging needs of the diversified population. The language challenge is considered one of the top barriers that international students confront when beginning their journeys of studying abroad. As the “Standard 6. Language diversity” of the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Diversity Standards: Cultural Competency for Academic Libraries (2012) states, “Librarians and library staff shall support the preservation and promotion of linguistic diversity, and work to foster a climate of inclusion aimed at eliminating discrimination and oppression based on linguistic or other diversities.”1 Thus, the library has an active role to play in helping international students succeed while establishing a feeling of inclusion.

McGill University in Montreal, Canada, has a large population of international students, 31.3 percent of student enrollment in 2018. Combined with its unique location in Quebec (the largest French-speaking province in Canada), more than half of students are non-native English speakers.2 To align with the university’s strategic plan to attract and retain international students,3 McGill University Library is at the forefront of promoting the library’s services and resources to these students. Since 2015, the library has funded an innovative program entitled “Peer Support for International Students.” Each year, two or three international students are hired to be library ambassadors, helping to promote library services to their international student peers. In collaboration with some library staff who speak a non-English language, the library ambassadors translated and narrated a series of vernacular language translations of the library orientation video, Welcome to the McGill Library. These videos are two minutes in length and dynamically introduce the Library’s spaces, services, and resources across branches. So far, Arabic, Chinese, French, Hindi, Persian, Spanish, and Urdu language videos have been made available on the library’s website along with the English version.4 While these videos are instrumental in creating a linguistically inviting atmosphere for international and non-native English-speaking students, this study investigated their effectiveness from the perspective of this student demographic.

Literature Review

The terms International students, foreign-born students, English as a second language (ESL) students, English language learners, multilingual students, multicultural students, and non-native English-speaking students are alternately used in the library and information science literature to refer to students who are born in non–English-speaking foreign countries and are currently studying at higher education institutions in English-speaking countries. In this literature review, they are subsumed under “international students” as it is most widely recognizable. Though some studies examine international students by home country and mother tongue, this literature review probes these students as a whole and focuses on the challenge that they face of being unfamiliar with academic library offerings and how libraries use specialized orientation programs and online videos to address that challenge. In addition, this review summarizes the success of using library videos in outreach and how various audiovisual features used in videos contribute to their success.

Previous literature notes that lack of library knowledge is a massive roadblock to international students’ library use. Compared with domestic students, international students are less familiar with the spaces, services, and resources offered by their university libraries.5 While domestic students view the library as a place that provides research material, international students use the library mostly as a place to study.6 Many common library services, such as chat services, interlibrary loan, and data services are new to these students. Library instructional sessions, including orientation events and research workshops, are often unfamiliar to them.7 Furthermore, they do not seek out help from library staff as readily as domestic students despite the fact that they find librarians to be approachable.8 This issue may stem from international students’ misunderstanding of the librarian’s role. They may either “have no idea what a librarian is,” “think everyone working in the library is a librarian,”9 or see librarians as people who provide help with locating and loaning books10 rather than as professionals with expertise who can assist them in searching databases as required for their assignments.11

While this lack of library knowledge may be a result of their perception of how libraries function in their home countries, international students’ low competency in English and distinct cultural concerns reduce their confidence in exploring what a library can offer to them. Due to their anxiety of correctly communicating their needs in English, they are more hesitant than native English speakers when asking for library assistance.12 As a result, their interactions with library personnel are few, and consultations with librarians are limited.13 Furthermore, their unfamiliarity with English can inhibit international students from understanding library jargon and using the associated services (for example, recall, patron, and interlibrary loan).14 In addition, international students’ “differing cultural attitudes toward formality, authority and autonomy” may discourage them from seeking help at a library service point.15 Liu and Winn’s interview study with Chinese graduate students describes an incident where a Chinese student did not ask for help when he could not log in to the interlibrary loan system due to being concerned about “bothering people.”16 The survey results from the study of international students by Burel, Graser, and Park show that half of the respondents “rarely” or “never” asked for help in the library even though many expressed “feeling comfortable” doing so.17 Such limitations of library awareness and the inherent reluctance to seek help can generate further difficulties in their academic work.

Research identifies not only a lack of library knowledge among international students but provides solutions to build their library knowledge. One widely adopted method is to offer in-person library orientation to international students at the beginning of their campus life.18 In a survey study conducted at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 73.7 percent of the 163 international student respondents reported that the library orientation was either “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful” in providing useful information about the library.19 While this orientation approach is successful in reaching out to international students,20 “few students take away quite as much as libraries expect from these sessions” because the classroom lecture format gives students little time to observe the library environment, and language barriers inhibit students from absorbing the “overwhelming amount of information” provided.21 Some libraries furthered this practice by providing international students with library orientation in their native languages.22 Though the language-tailored orientation programs are more effective in raising students’ comfort level with the library, they are “labor-intensive, difficult to administer to a large student population, and dependent upon the scheduling availability of students.”23

With the development of instructional technologies, virtual library tours have emerged. These web-based tours, as an ongoing outreach resource for international students, can be viewed anytime, either prior to arriving on campus, during new student orientation, or later on in their studies.24 Such online orientation material is beneficial in “developing international students’ confidence in using the library as a welcoming learning space.”25 In line with the in-person native language orientation activities, academic libraries have explored using vernacular language videos, often guided and narrated by non—native English language speakers. These orientation videos include the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries and the University of Oregon Library’s vernacular language videos,26 the Miami University Libraries’ Chinese Language Tour of King Library,27 the Baruch College Library’s multilingual web-based library virtual tour,28 Cornell University Library’s Welcome to Cornell University Library (Chinese),29 and McGill University Library’s Welcome to the McGill Library in several different languages.30 These videos “showcase library resources and services in a direct and vivid way,” and the native languages used in narration make students “feel encouraged to come to the library and comfortable to contact the librarians.”31

While vernacular language orientation videos may still be new in the library, the success of using library videos to reach out to students in general manifests the potential of expanding this strategy to the international student population. Orientation videos are good at advertising services, resources, and locations especially to incoming students.32 Virtual footage included in the video “give[s] viewers an idea of the location of services and material”33 and increases students’ knowledge of the library and its collections and services.34 The video’s promotion of the role of librarians in the research process encourages students to consult librarians and seek library material during research.35 Emotionally, the videos ease students’ “library anxiety”36 and “make the library seem friendlier and less intimidating,”37 helping to foster students’ positive attitudes toward the library by sparking their motivation to learn more.38

Additionally, audiovisual features used in videos may enhance students’ learning. Despite the fact that the capacity of working memory available for learning is limited,39 and people can only process a limited amount of information in either the auditory (verbal) or the visual (pictorial) channel at a time,40 learners’ cognitive processing is key to meaningful learning.41 Videos can propel such cognitive processes since people are more likely to absorb information from graphics paired with narration than graphics paired with onscreen text.42 Well-paced narration in short sentences, with pauses between information points, gives viewers time to process information.43 The viewers also have the choice to turn off the closed captioning if it generates cognitive overload for them while simultaneously listening to the audio, reading the text, and watching the graphical display.44 Furthermore, narration provides “auditory cues” that may simulate human-to-human interaction.45 Live action conducted by real people demonstrates actual experiences, making the information easier to integrate into the viewer’s prior knowledge.46 The native language narration also helps international students overcome language and cultural barriers and “shorten the time spent in learning to use the library.”47

While the existing literature provides insight into best practices for using vernacular language library videos to empower international students, a thorough and nuanced assessment of international students’ perceptions of vernacular language orientation videos is missing. This study seeks to contribute to the literature by (1) comparing the effectiveness of the English and vernacular language video in terms of student learning and affective responses and (2) exploring how various audiovisual features used in the video positively or negatively contribute to its quality. Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered to answer these research questions.


The study received the McGill University Research Ethics Board II Certificate of Ethical Acceptability of Research Involving Humans (REB File #: 337-0117). In compliance with the research design approved by the certificate, 18 non-native English-speaking students were recruited to participate in this study through various means, including advertising the study to different language communities and the students in a general undergraduate communication course, as well as word of mouth. A draw of one $100 Amazon gift card was used to promote participation. The participant demographics reflected the diversity of the non-native English-speaking study body at McGill University: 12 males and six females across the disciplines of humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and medicine; a large number of participants in the first or second year of their undergraduate studies with several others at the graduate level; three native Arabic speakers, five native French speakers, six native Mandarin Chinese speakers, two native Persian speakers, and two native Urdu speakers.

The participants were divided into two groups with a similar number of participants of each native language, eight in the control group watching the English video and 10 in the experimental group watching the vernacular language videos, specifically the Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, Persian, and Urdu versions. All the participants regardless of group followed the same research procedure—an individual meeting with the two researchers, providing demographic information and completing two activities: (1) watching the Welcome to the McGill Library video in a selected language and completing a checklist exercise and (2) conducting a semi-structured interview. All the sessions were conducted between October 2017 and April 2018, and each was 35 to 60 minutes in length.

The checklist contained 16 points of information responding to library spaces, services, and resources introduced in the video. The participant was asked to indicate when he or she first learned each of the information points: (1) learned this before watching the video, (2) learned this from watching the video, and (3) didn’t know about this. Since many participants of the study were not first-year students and might have already acquired library knowledge through other means, by having the participants indicate what they acquired both before and after watching the video, what the video itself delivered could be quantified. The checklist answers were later compiled and analyzed using Excel spreadsheets.

Semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions were conducted to capture participants’ individual perceptions of the video in four areas: (1) information delivered in the video; (2) affective responses to the video; (3) video quality and audiovisual features used; and (4) suggestions for improvement. The interview questions can be found in the appendix. The conversations were in English and recorded using a digital recorder. All interview recordings were reviewed by both researchers of the study several times until a list of preliminary codes was established. The coded recording clips were further transcribed into text and then categorized to identify main themes.

The quantitative data gathered from the checklist exercise outlined what students learned from the video, and the qualitative data from the interviews allowed in-depth and unknown perceptions to emerge. The hope was that the combined use of both datasets as well as the comparison between two groups would provide a more robust and holistic answer to the study’s research questions.


In accordance with the two methods used in the study, this section reports the study results consecutively in two parts.

The Checklist Exercise

The checklist contained a total of 16 information points that were introduced in the video. Figure 1 presents the mean numbers of information points by each group either learned before watching the video, learned from the video, or didn’t know about this.

Figure 1

Mean Number of Information Points Reported by Group

Figure 1. Mean Number of Information Points Reported by Group

Despite having acquired a fair amount of library knowledge before watching the video (10.7 and 11.9), the participants of each group gained new knowledge by viewing the video (4.6 and 3.88). While the experimental group had slightly less library knowledge than the control group before watching the video (10.7 vs. 11.9), the video delivered slightly more knowledge to the experimental group participants than to those in the control group (4.6 vs. 3.88).

The Semi-structured Interview

Interview results consisted of non-native English-speaking students’ perceptions of the videos in either English or a vernacular language version in four areas: information delivered in the video, affective responses to the video, video quality and audiovisual features used, and suggestions for improvement.

To complement the quantitative data gathered in the checklist exercise, the interviews included questions concerning the participants’ impressions of the information delivered in the video. Participants of both groups remarked that the video was informative and “covered everything” and were mostly impressed by the large number of library branches across the campuses and the variety of spaces, services, and resources offered by the library. When asked what library services introduced in the video would be useful for them, participants of both groups made similar comments, including study spaces, online bookable study rooms, librarian appointments, online access to library collections, long opening hours, and an informative library website. In comparison, experimental group participants showed more enthusiasm about the video by highlighting some information perceived from the video (for example, the in-person assistance from library staff). As one participant said, “by watching this video I would say that I found out that there are more people than expected who will be able to help me in the library … beyond the front desk.” Several participants in this group also noted more detailed information mentioned in the video, such as the availability of charging outlets on library desks. Such details and enthusiasm were not prevalent in the interviews with control group participants.

The interviews had several questions related to participants’ affective responses to the videos. Participants of both groups felt “proud” of the abundant resources offered by the library and established a positive image of the library. Both groups found the video to be helpful in familiarizing students with the library, especially for new international students. As one doctoral student explained, “it would be very helpful if students who come to McGill get exposed to the videos. They [would] know this right away and take better advantage of these services rather than knowing them later.” Another participant reiterated, “a lot of students come straight [from their own countries] and they don’t know much English at all. A video like this would really help them figure out, basically get their feet grounded.” Furthermore, participants in both groups felt encouraged by the video with regard to asking library staff questions, whether or not they had done so previously. As one experimental group participant commented, “I definitely feel more motivated to seek out help because that was probably the most driving point of this video. There were several points at which he said that we are here to help you. Ask the librarians.”

In addition to these common feelings shared by participants in both groups, experimental group participants expressed more in-depth emotions invoked by the video. They first perceived some information introduced in the video as “intriguing,” encouraging them to “want to study at the library” and “check out the study rooms.” They next praised the means of using online videos to deliver library orientation as it was easily accessible and “fashionable among young people.” Then, participants in this group expressed their appreciation for using their mother tongues in the videos, which sped up their comprehension. As one student commented, “in terms of listening in my own mother tongue, it was very comfortable to listen to this file. I would say if it was in English, I would need to pause it a few times and think about what she is saying. But it was so fluent [and] very easy to understand.” They further described a feeling of inclusion as a result of hearing their native languages recorded in the video. As one participant complimented, “it is really good that McGill is reaching out to people who speak another language by producing this kind of video” and “the university is doing a great job by including us in the community.” Finally, some participants had a feeling of belonging, stating that “the videos are a great way to make people feel more at home … [since] McGill is amazingly international, it’s English mainly but also cool to have other languages.”

The interviews also investigated participants’ perceptions on how various audiovisual features used in the video contributed to the video’s quality. Participants of both groups unanimously rated the video’s quality and audiovisual effects very highly. Both groups were impressed by the professionally made graphics and footage clips used in the video, the correspondence between images/footage and the narration, the smooth shifting between frames, the stimulating but not disturbing background music, as well as the balanced use of narration, music, images, footage, and screenshots in the video. No participants in either group spotted any terminology issue in either the English or vernacular versions of the video that inhibited their comprehension of the video’s content.

One audiovisual feature adopted in McGill Library’s Welcome video is the simultaneous use of still images and moving footage. As a result, some frames have video footage running alongside multiple still images (see figure 2).

Figure 2

Simultaneous Use of Still Images and Moving Footage

Figure 2. Simultaneous Use of Still Images and Moving Footage

In this screenshot, the bottom footage is running to show people using a “returns” slot to return a book while the top two still images are presenting the library’s collections.

Participants perceived this feature differently, but no visible differences were noted between the two groups. Most participants liked this feature and found it to be “engaging,” “really great,” “used in a balance,” and “not disturbing” since “it gave people the feeling of being in that library” and piqued their curiosity about the variety of library services. Nevertheless, two participants, one from each group, did not notice this feature at all. Another two participants, also one from each group, were concerned that this feature generated “too much” information. As the one in the control group explained, “no one is actually going to look at each of these photographs.” The other in the experimental group spelled out, “it made it very hard for me to focus when the screen splits into more than two parts. … My focus was given to the photo but not the filming as the pace is fast.”

The video’s pace concerned participants in both groups. Most control group participants found the video to be fast, though they could follow it. One student suggested slowing down the image transitions to allow time for greater comprehension. Experimental group participants, in comparison, reported more issues related to the video’s pace. As one participant explained, “[when] it turns to the second idea, I am still thinking about the first idea.” Several others in this group also equated the pace issue with the amount of information provided in the video. While the majority of the control group participants found the amount of information to be good and the level of detail to be “just right” as an introductory library video, experimental group participants expressed more concerns, such as “too much information pressed in two and a half minutes,” “not being able to catch on to the next topic,” and “not remembering more than five things [after watching the video].” To “know every detail of what [students] can do in the library,” they would either “have to ask [at] the desk” or consult “the document of all the services listed.” Another participant hoped the video would have included “a bit more explanation” to help him absorb the information it covered.

Another difference between the two groups was associated with the narration. While the control group admired the English video’s narration as “professional,” participants in the experimental group appraised the quality of vernacular language narrations differently. The most pronounced discrepancy centered on the narrator’s accent recorded in vernacular videos. Comments in this regard encompassed “the accent is very good [and] clear,” “the pronunciation is great,” “I like his pitch … very good,” “some words were pronounced in a non-native way,” “the narrator had an accent that I just cannot figure out which accent it was,” and “the language was obviously Canadian, a Quebec accent … but it was close to France French.” However, participants noted that the accent issue was “not disturbing” and that they found it to be acceptable. Second, the vocabulary used in the translations of vernacular videos received varying comments. For example, “this is definitely news cast level … [The] diction is so clear … The speaker has really good vocabulary” and “some parts … really sounded authentically [my mother tongue] but some other parts sounded like they had been translated.” Next, in contrast to the unanimous praise of the professional voice recorded in the English video, some experimental group participants commented on the narrators’ voices in the vernacular videos. For example, “his sound is strange … not by a professional” and “It was not the standard like news anchor kind of voice.” Nonetheless, the participants understood that the vernacular language videos were narrated by either library ambassadors or staff and accepted the quality of narration. Additionally, the experimental group pointed out inconsistent quality of images and footage clips used in the video. A small number of photos thought to be too dark to promote library spaces and occasional noise was heard in some footage clips. Similar detailed discoveries and reflections of the videos were not observed in the control group.

During the interviews, participants were asked to make suggestions for improving the video in the future. When asked about their preference for the language used in the video, control group participants widely accepted the video with the English narration but most experimental group participants preferred to view the vernacular language video due to the familiarity of their native language, with comments such as “the most comfortable would be my native language” and “I prefer to hear the voice in my native language.” However, those participants also accepted narrating the video in English. As one participant said, “English is not surprising considering it is McGill. At least having it in English is good enough because it’s mostly the students that are going to be using them and all students speak English and understand English.”

When asked about their preferences related to the language of the subtitles in the video, participants had varying opinions regardless of the group they were in. One option that participants proposed was to have English subtitles on the vernacular language video to familiarize non-native English-speaking students with English terminology while generating an emotionally inviting atmosphere for viewers. As one experimental group participant explained, even though “Chinese students view the video in Chinese, they also need to learn how to describe the services introduced in English, which will help them communicate.” Another option was to include vernacular language subtitles on the English video to create an emotional attachment for non-native English speakers. Considering the amount of work and number of resources involved in making a vernacular language video, most participants would accept having vernacular-language subtitles on the English video. Many who supported this option also suggested embedding a button on the video to allow audience to easily turn on or off the subtitles.

As mentioned previously, participants in the experimental group showed more enthusiasm about the videos they watched. They conducted the conversations in more detail and elaborated on ways to improve the videos in the future. For instance, they suggested that some content mentioned in the video needed to be more detailed to include information about branch libraries, research materials, how to use online services, and so on. They were also cognizant that the video should be short as an introduction to the library and suggested creating a series of more detailed how-to videos to complement the introductory video. In comparison, the responses from participants in the control group seemed simple and lacked in-depth reflection, with one recommendation to include details for accessing online resources from off-campus, browsing the library website, and finding electronic journals and another to display key text, such as branch library names and specific library service names, on the relevant video frames with hyperlinks to their corresponding webpages.

Finally, the interviews identified a lack of awareness of the Welcome videos, including both the English version and the vernacular translations, among non-native English-speaking participants sampled in the study. During the interviews, only two participants (one from each group) reported that they were aware that the McGill Library had produced orientation videos before learning about the study. The one in the control group watched the Chinese video while he was in his home country before coming to Canada, and the student in the experimental group had seen the video on the library homepage but had not clicked on it.


The checklist exercise of the study suggests that vernacular language library orientation videos were as effective as their English equivalent in delivering information to non-native English-speaking students. The interviews show that, similar to the English video, vernacular language videos provided impressive information and engendered positive feelings about the library (for example, being proud of the library and its resources). In contrast, the vernacular language videos excelled in inspiring students’ enthusiasm about the video and consequently enhancing their desire to study in the library, use library services, and consult library staff for assistance. These findings corroborate those of Li, McDowell, and Wang’s study, which show that students have a positive attitude toward vernacular language videos.48 The native language recorded in the narration was found to be helpful in easing non-native English-speaking students’ comprehension of the video content and, more interestingly, in invoking a sense of inclusion in the community. Such a positive attitude toward their library and university may help them succeed in the future studies.

Compared to those who watched the English video, participants who watched vernacular language videos were far more responsive in the interviews. These students not only highlighted their impressions of the information introduced in the video but also shared in-depth thoughts on different aspects of the video, whether or not they liked those aspects. They meticulously expressed their concerns about the video’s pace, the amount of information covered, and the level of detail; caught defects in the translation and narration in some vernacular language videos; identified lower-quality photos and footage clips; and pointed out occasional noise in the background. While the questions asked to participants in both groups were largely the same, similar reflections were not detected in the control group. While viewing the vernacular language video, participants might have more quickly comprehended the language used in the narration and therefore had more time to cognitively process the video’s information and generate more detailed reflections. This implies that watching the video in their native language was more likely to have had more impact and resulted in more engagement during the interviews with experimental group participants than with those in the control group.

Many studies on international students and academic libraries state that international students have difficulty communicating in English.49 This study validated this type of language challenge, based on non-native English-speaking students’ perceptions of the library orientation video. While these students appreciated the English video, they preferred to watch vernacular language videos or see captioning in their native languages on the English video. They recommended that key text of a library branch’s name or library service with hyperlinks be placed on the screen to enhance their comprehension in English. These language-assistive mechanisms can enhance the accessibility of videos as narration; and clickable, hyperlinked boxes on the video may provide viewers with the ability to discover additional information.50 As Witt, Kutner, and Cooper note, internationalization is on the rise on North American campuses, and it is important for libraries to be involved in developing best practices and assessment of library programs in support of campus initiatives.51 These findings are important for university libraries with a large international and non-native English-speaking student population in preparing their orientation material.

In addition, this study provides insight into non-native English-speaking students’ perceptions of audiovisual features used in a library orientation video. The interviews suggest that audiovisual features, such as graphics, moving footage, narration, and background music, when used well, contribute to a video’s quality and enhance student learning. This finding concurs with Mayer’s statement of the value of using videos for instructional purposes.52 However, when a video’s audience includes a large number of non-native English-speaking students, the video’s pace, the amount of information, the level of detail, as well as the simultaneous use of still images and moving footage, need careful consideration. Furthermore, this study suggests a need for wider promotion of these library videos, as most participants in both groups were not aware of these videos before hearing about this study. Online videos, as a popular media among young people, are easily accessible and thus have great capacity for reaching out to not only students who are entering university but those at any point in their programs.53 Therefore, efforts are needed to publicize them to both new and returning students.

Limitations and Avenues for Future Research

Although the methods of the study were carefully selected to answer the research questions, some flaws were worth mentioning. The checklist exercise was adopted to enrich the qualitative findings drawn from the semi-structured interviews. Due to the small number of participants in the study, the results of this exercise should not be used alone without the study’s context. However, the numeric results provided an interesting account of student learning of the video and the exercise explored a new way to assess the video’s effectiveness in addition to the interview method. Future studies may run this exercise with a large number of participants to establish statistical meaning. Another bias comes from the researchers’ dual roles in creating the vernacular language videos and in conducting the assessment. Though this was never mentioned to the participants, they might have sensed it and therefore have overemphasized the effectiveness of the vernacular language videos. This bias could be eliminated by having outside researchers conduct the assessment.

Future studies on the same topic may have different focuses. For example, students’ learning and perceptions of the video measured in the study were self-reported by participants. People who work with international students, such as instructors, may offer their observations concerning these students’ growth and its associated factors. Next, all the participants in this study were recruited from one university only. A future study may be conducted at multiple universities to produce more generalizable findings. Furthermore, while library videos are useful for students of all levels, the interviews suggest that they may be of more value to new international students. Future research may focus on new international students’ perceptions of vernacular language videos. Finally, this study examined participants with different mother tongues together as non-native English-speaking students. In the checklist exercise, compared to the control group, the experimental group presented wider variations in the three options. While this could be a result of the varying quality of the vernacular language videos’ translation and narration, the variations may suggest a need to examine the students separately by their native language. The researchers in the interviews also observed different interests among participants of different languages. For example, Chinese-speaking participants favored bright and comfortable studying spaces, and Arabic-speaking students valued the support of librarian assistance. The competency levels of English among participants of different languages also differed. While many Arabic-speaking participants received their education in English at a very early age, most Chinese-speaking participants learned English only in a course throughout their education. Such differences suggest an additional perspective to investigate international students, and the impact of a student’s native language on his or her library experience may be another avenue for future studies.


This study suggests that vernacular language orientation videos, in comparison with their English language equivalent, are effective not only in delivering library knowledge to non-native English-speaking students but also in eliciting students’ enthusiasm about the library and fostering an emotional connection between these students and their libraries and host universities. The immediate comprehension of the native language used in the video is suspected to play an instrumental role in the process. Compared with those who watched the English video, non-native English-speaking students who viewed the vernacular language video had more time to conduct cognitive activities, such as connecting the information to their previous knowledge and reflecting critically. Such enthusiasm and connection may transform into students’ enhanced confidence in exploring library and other campus resources at their disposal, helping them to succeed in their academic pursuits.

Librarians shall be attentive to the language diversity on campus when there is a large population of international students. Special considerations, such as placing closed captions and key text in the video and adjusting the video’s pace, amount of information, and level of detail, should be given to video design. As Click, Wiley, and Houlihan recommend in their recent systematic review study on international students, “original research with practical implications” would benefit librarians who are making efforts in this regard.54 This study contributes to the discussion with a hope to inform and inspire more practices to improve the library experience of international students.


We wish to thank Edward Bilodeau, for reviewing the interview questions and providing thoughtful feedback. Our great appreciation goes to Dr. Colleen Cook: without her valuable advice on the study’s methods, this publication would not have been possible. In addition, the “Peer Support for International Students” project was continuously sponsored by McGill Library’s Innovation Fund and received generous help from McGill Library fellow colleagues and student assistants, for which we are truly grateful.

APPENDIX. Interview Questions


  1. What things did you learn from the video?
  2. What are some of the services mentioned in the library that are useful to you (for instance: for your classes, research, or entertainment)?
  3. What services, if any, from the video would you like to try?

Awareness of the Video

  1. Had you watched the video (either in this language or another) before hearing about this study?
  2. If so, how did you hear about or locate it?
  3. Before you heard about this study, were you aware that the library produced a multilingual video?

Features of the Video

  1. How do you rate the quality of the video (such as content, sound quality, audio quality, image quality, design)?
  2. What, if any, specific features of the video do you find contribute to the quality of the video (for instance: music, images, or any other features)?
  3. Were there any visual or audio features that you wish weren’t used in the video?
  4. How was the pace of the video/audio?
  5. Was there anything that you didn’t understand in the video? (like library-specific terminology)
  6. How was the level of detail of the information provided? Please provide examples.
  7. How do you find the combination of still pictures and moving videos used in the same screen in some shots of the video?
  8. How was the combination of background music, narration, still images, videos, and computer screenshots?

Affective Responses

  1. What kinds of emotions did you feel while or after watching the video?
  2. Have you sought out help at the library before watching this video?
  3. After watching the video, how comfortable are you contacting the library or a librarian for assistance?
  4. How do you feel about the language used in the video? (such as speed or limitations of your understanding)
  5. [For participants watching a non-English version] How do you feel about your native language being used in the video?
  6. What, if any, other feelings does the video invoke?


  1. What suggestions do you have for improving this video in the future?
  2. What other information do you think should have been included in this orientation video?
  3. How would you feel about having closed captions on the video (such as a transcription of the audio)?
  4. [For participants watching a non-English version] How would you find having subtitles in your native language instead of having an audio translation?[For participants watching the English version] How would you find having subtitles in your native language on the English video?
  5. [For participants watching a non-English version] How would you find having English subtitles in a translation of the video in your native language?


  1. How useful are videos like these in helping you learn about the library?
  2. Do you prefer in library videos in English or your native language?


1. “Diversity Standards: Cultural Competency for Academic Libraries (2012),” Association of College & Research Libraries, www.ala.org/acrl/standards/diversity [accessed 15 May 2019].

2. “2018 Factbook,” McGill University, https://mcgill.ca/about/quickfacts [accessed 15 May 2019].

3. “Attracting and Retaining International Students in Québec: Setting an Ambitious Target,” McGill University, last modified August 3, 2016, https://www.mcgill.ca/communications/files/communications/memoire_cible_immigration_mcgill_en_0.pdf.

4. “Welcome to the McGill Library!” McGill Library, https://www.mcgill.ca/library/orientation [accessed 15 May 2019].

5. Yan Liao, Mary Finn, and Jun Lu, “Information-Seeking Behavior of International Graduate Students vs. American Graduate Students: A User Study at Virginia Tech 2005,” College & Research Libraries 68, no. 1 (January 2007): 5–25, https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.68.1.5; Hilary Hughes et al., “Passport to Study: Flipped Library Orientation for International Students,” Australian Academic & Research Libraries 47, no. 3 (August 2016): 124–42, https://doi.org/10.1080/00048623.2016.1225552.

6. Lorrie Knight, Maryann Hight, and Lisa Polfer, “Rethinking the Library for the International Student Community,” Reference Services Review 38, no. 4 (2010): 581–605, https://doi.org/10.1108/00907321011090746; Yoo-Seong Song, “A Comparative Study on Information-Seeking Behaviors of Domestic and International Business Students,” Research Strategies 20, no. 1/2 (November 2005): 23–34, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resstr.2005.07.001.

7. Liao, Finn, and Lu, “Information-Seeking Behavior of International Graduate Students vs. American Graduate Students,” 5–25; Pamela A. Jackson, “Incoming International Students and the Library: A Survey,” Reference Services Review 33, no. 2 (2005): 197–209, https://doi.org/10.1108/00907320510597408; Guoying Liu and Danielle Winn, “Chinese Graduate Students and the Canadian Academic Library: A User Study at the University of Windsor,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 35, no. 6 (November 2009): 565–73, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2009.08.001.

8. Melissa Burel, Marlee Graser, and Sarah Park, “Exploring the International Student Experience: Providing Insight through a Mixed-Methods Approach,” Journal of Library Administration 59, no. 2 (2019): 149–74, https://doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2018.1562804.

9. Cuiying Mu, “Marketing Academic Library Resources and Information Services to International Students from Asia,” Reference Services Review 35, no. 4 (2007): 571–83, https://doi.org/10.1108/00907320710838390.

10. Knight, Hight, and Polfer, “Rethinking the Library for the International Student Community,” 581–605; Liu and Winn, “Chinese Graduate Students and the Canadian Academic Library,” 565–73.

11. Renée Morrissey and Lisa M. Given, “International Students and the Academic Library: A Case Study,” Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 30, no. 3/4 (2006): 221–39.

12. Hughes et al., “Passport to Study,” 124–42; Frank Trew, “Serving Different Constituencies: International Students,” in Subject Librarians: Engaging with the Learning and Teaching Environment, eds. Penny Dale, Matt Holland, and Marian Matthews (Aldershot, Hants, UK: Ashgate, 2006), 149–74.

13. Burel, Graser, and Park, “Exploring the International Student Experience,” 149–74; Ilka Datig, “What Is a Library? International College Students’ Perceptions of Libraries,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 40, no. 3-4 (May 2014): 350–56, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2014.05.001.

14. Liu and Winn, “Chinese Graduate Students and the Canadian Academic Library,” 565–73; Trew, “Serving Different Constituencies,” 149–74.

15. Hughes et al., “Passport to Study,” 124–42.

16. Liu and Winn, “Chinese Graduate Students and the Canadian Academic Library,” 565–73.

17. Burel, Graser, and Park, “Exploring the International Student Experience,” 149–74.

18. Feng-Ru Sheu and Roman S. Panchyshyn, “Social Introduction to Library Services for International Students: The International Student Reception at Kent State University Libraries,” Library Review 66, no. 3 (2017): 127–43, https://doi.org/10.1108/LR-08-2016-0072; Chris Langer and Hiromi Kubo, “From the Ground Up: Creating a Sustainable Library Outreach Program for International Students,” Journal of Library Administration 55, no. 8 (2015): 605–21, https://doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2015.1085232.

19. Burel, Graser, and Park, “Exploring the International Student Experience,” 149–74.

20. Langer and Kubo, “From the Ground Up,” 605–21.

21. Xiang Li, Kevin McDowell, and Xiaotong Wang, “Building Bridges: Outreach to International Students via Vernacular Language Videos,” Reference Services Review 44, no. 3 (2016): 324–40, https://doi.org/10.1108/RSR-10-2015-0044.

22. Jennifer Congyan Zhao, Nazi Torabi, and Sonia Smith, “Meeting Campus Linguistic Diversity: A Multilingual Library Orientation Approach,” International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion 1, no. 1 (2016): 1–13, https://doi.org/10.33137/ijidi.v1i1.32183; Eileen K. Bosch and Valeria E. Molteni, “Connecting to International Students in Their Languages: Innovative Bilingual Library Instruction in Academic Libraries,” in International Students and Academic Libraries: Initiatives for Success, eds. Pamela A. Jackson and Patrick Sullivan (Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2011), 135–50; Daniel Liestman and Connie Wu, “Library Orientation for International Students in Their Native Language,” Research Strategies 8, no. 4 (1990): 191-96.

23. Liestman and Wu, “Library Orientation for International Students in Their Native Language,” 191–96.

24. Hilary Hughes et al., “The Role of the University Library in Supporting International Student Transition: Insights from an Australian-American Case Study,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 44, no. 5 (2018): 582–94, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2018.06.003; Arthur Downing and Leo Robert Klein, “A Multilingual Virtual Tour for International Students: The Web-Based Library at Baruch College Opens Doors,” College & Research Libraries News 62, no. 5 (2001): 500–02.

25. Hughes et al., “Passport to Study,” 124–42.

26. Li, McDowell, and Wang, “Building Bridges,” 324–40.

27. “Chinese Language Tour of King Library,” Miami University Libraries, https://vimeo.com/8910810 [accessed 15 May 2019].

28. Downing and Klein, “A Multilingual Virtual Tour for International Students,” 500–02.

29. “Help for International Students,” Cornell University Library, https://www.library.cornell.edu/international [accessed 15 May 2019].

30. “Welcome to the McGill Library!”

31. Li, McDowell, and Wang, “Building Bridges,” 324–40.

32. Geoffrey Little, “The Revolution Will Be Streamed Online: Academic Libraries and Video,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 37, no. 1 (January 2011): 70–72, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2010.10.009.

33. Necia Parker-Gibson, “Reference and Media-Instruction by Any Means Necessary,” Reference Librarian 31, no. 65 (1999): 61–78, https://doi.org/10.1300/J120v31n65_07.

34. John Hickok, “Web Library Tours: Using Streaming Video and Interactive Quizzes,” Reference Services Review 30, no. 2 (2002): 99–111, https://doi.org/10.1108/00907320210428660.

35. Eileen Wakiji and Joy Thomas, “MTV to the Rescue: Changing Library Attitudes through Video,” College & Research Libraries 58, no. 3 (May 1997): 211–16.

36. Parker-Gibson, “Reference and Media-Instruction by Any Means Necessary,” 61–78.

37. Diane Mizrachi and Jaclyn Bedoya, “LITE Bites: Broadcasting Bite-Sized Library Instruction,” Reference Services Review 35, no. 2 (2007): 249–56, https://doi.org/10.1108/00907320710749164.

38. Gertrude N. Jacobson and Michael J. Albright, “Motivation via Videotape: Key to Undergraduate Library Instruction in the Research Library,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 9, no. 5 (November 1983): 270–75.

39. John Sweller, Instructional Design in Technical Areas (Camberwell, AU: ACER Press, 1999).

40. Richard E. Mayer, Multimedia Learning (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2001), https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139164603.

41. Irene T. Skuballa, Anke Dammert, and Alexander Renkl, “Two Kinds of Meaningful Multimedia Learning: Is Cognitive Activity Alone as Good as Combined Behavioral and Cognitive Activity?” Learning and Instruction 54 (April 2018): 35–46, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2018.02.001.

42. Richard E. Mayer, Multimedia Learning, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2009), https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511811678.

43. Nichole A. Martin and Ross Martin, “Would You Watch It? Creating Effective and Engaging Video Tutorials,” Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning 9, no. 1/2 (2015): 40–56, https://doi.org/10.1080/1533290X.2014.946345.

44. Martin and Martin, “Would You Watch It?”; Joanne Oud, “Improving Screencast Accessibility for People with Disabilities: Guidelines and Techniques,” Internet Reference Services Quarterly 16, no. 3 (2011): 129–44, https://doi.org/10.1080/10875301.2011.602304.

45. Chong Ho Yu et al., “An Exploratory Crossover Study of Learner Perceptions of Use of Audio in Multimedia-Based Tutorials,” Journal of Educational Computing Research 40, no. 1 (2009): 23–46.

46. Martin and Martin, “Would You Watch It?” 40–56.

47. Li, McDowell, and Wang, “Building Bridges,” 324–40.

48. Ibid.

49. Frans Albarillo, “Is the Library’s Online Orientation Program Effective with English Language Learners?” College & Research Libraries 78, no. 5 (July 2017): 652–74, https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.78.5.652; Hughes et al., “Passport to Study,” 124–42; Liu and Winn, “Chinese Graduate Students and the Canadian Academic Library,” 565–73; Trew, “Serving Different Constituencies,” 149–74.

50. Martin and Martin, “Would You Watch It?” 40–56.

51. Steven W. Witt, Laurie Kutner, and Liz Cooper, “Mapping Academic Library Contributions to Campus Internationalization,” College & Research Libraries 76, no. 5 (2015): 587–608, https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.76.5.587.

52. Mayer, Multimedia Learning, 2nd ed.

53. Hughes et al., “Passport to Study,” 124–42.

54. Amanda B. Click, Claire Walker Wiley, and Meggan Houlihan, “The Internationalization of the Academic Library: A Systematic Review of 25 Years of Literature on International Students,” College & Research Libraries 78, no. 3 (2017): 328–58.

* Jennifer Cong Yan Zhao and Tara Mawhinney are Liaison Librarians at McGill University; email: jennifer.zhao@mcgill.ca, tara.mawhinney@mcgill.ca. ©2020 Jennifer Cong Yan Zhao, and Tara Mawhinney, Attribution-NonCommercial (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) CC BY-NC.

Copyright Jennifer Cong Yan Zhao, Tara Mawhinney

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