This is a story by Outi Pickering from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Our interlibrary service occasionally provides articles in languages other than English when a
library user is doing a review which must include other languages. Oxford being very international, our users often have colleagues who can help with some of the languages – but not always, and this is where the library has been able to help. I’m a native speaker of Finnish; in addition, I can call myself fluent in Swedish and Italian and competent in German. As these languages are related to others which may be called for (Dutch, Spanish, Danish come to mind), I’ve been able to decipher a number of different languages sufficiently to say whether for instance the article is about inpatients only, whether there was co-morbidity, etc. The agreement is that if I can provide the information within half an hour, it’s a value added service given by the library, but if more time is needed – particularly if a proper translation is needed – I put my freelance translator’s hat on and do the work in my spare time and the user pays for it. Outcome: satisfied users who spread the word that the library is a useful place! We’re not planning to take this any further though since the service depends on one individual (though there could be others, depending on who we employ!), and we don’t advertise it as part of our official “menu”.
On another similar theme, a Greek junior doctor asked if I knew of anyone who could help her with her English. She didn’t want a language school but an individual who could help her get the feel of the language at a deeper level, and besides, due to her work she couldn’t commit herself to a course. I said I know one – my husband! He is a retired university lecturer (English language, specialising in linguistics) and needs to feel useful and have contacts outside the home. They reached an agreement, and both parties were delighted. In addition to the lessons at our house which my husband provided, we often went out all three together, and were introduced to the doctor’s friends when they visited! She has now moved away from Oxford, but we’re still in touch with her occasionally.