Re-thinking Library Jargon: Maintaining Consistency and Using Plain Language

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Re-thinking Library Jargon: Maintaining Consistency and Using Plain Language

  1. 1. Re-thinking Library Jargon: Maintaining Consistency and Using Plain Language Mark Aaron Polger, Instruction and Reference Librarian College of Staten Island (CSI) / City University of New York (CUNY) February 26, 2010 2010 OLA Superconference
  2. 2. Do you recognize these terms? ILL/DD Reference citation bibliographic record online e-journal EBSCO serial periodical database ERM MARC GUI LOC OCLC ILLO Indexes and Abstracts portal RACER Information Literacy BI OPAC Resource Sharing VDX Liaison circulation SFX (Find It) controlled vocabulary USB server proxy Ariel URL ERIC download OpenURL monograph bandwidth OLA ALA pathfinder Boolean truncation/wild card descriptor stacks
  3. 3. .....and we cannot forget “e” e-reference, e-books, e-journals, e-resources, e-chat, e-library, e-newsletter, e-data, etc… “ e” is not specific to libraries but it’s so overused it deserves its own slide….
  4. 4. What is this presentation about? <ul><li>What is Jargon? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Problems associated with jargon </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why consistency matters. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What is Plain Language? </li></ul><ul><li>3 Studies on Jargon and Plain Language: </li></ul><ul><li>Questionnaire on consistency of library jargon across Canadian and U.S. Academic institutions. (N=687) </li></ul><ul><li>Questionnaire on student preferences to library terms on the CSI library web site. (N=300) </li></ul><ul><li>Questionnaire on librarian preferences to library terms. (N=525) </li></ul><ul><li>How to develop a standardized list of consistent jargon </li></ul>
  5. 5. Outlandish language of various kinds, such as speech perceived as gibberish or mumbo jumbo, SLANG, or, most commonly, specialized language of a trade or profession. To non-members of professional, occupational, and other groups, jargon is filled with terms and syntax that are not typical of general English and may impede understanding, but to members of such a group, jargon is familiar and serves its purpose well. What is Jargon? What is Jargon? Source: &quot;JARGON&quot;  Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. Ed. Tom McArthur. Oxford University Press, 1998. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  CUNY College of Staten Island.  5 November 2009  < http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t29.e649 >
  6. 6. Why does it matter? <ul><li>We teach via verbal and written communication. </li></ul><ul><li>Our web site, marketing materials, the reference interview, and library instruction are full of jargon. </li></ul><ul><li>My employer, CUNY, 23 campuses, 500,000 students, has no standardized list of jargon. </li></ul><ul><li>Our use of language may have positive or negative effects when we're marketing our services and resources. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Why is Jargon important to us? <ul><li>Group identification and community </li></ul><ul><li>Sense of comfort and cohesion </li></ul><ul><li>Specialized acronyms and expressions are easier to read and write </li></ul><ul><li>May give us a sense of authority or prestige </li></ul>
  8. 8. Why is Jargon Problematic? <ul><li>Jargon may confuse users </li></ul><ul><li>Our users may not understand it. </li></ul><ul><li>Jargon may act as a barrier to learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Jargon may be perceived as elitist. </li></ul>
  9. 9. What is Plain Language? PLAIN LANGUAGE. 1. Usage without social pretensions, overly complex structures, and such actual or supposed frills as poetic flourishes, foreignisms, and technical jargon. &quot;PLAIN LANGUAGE&quot; Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. Ed. Tom McArthur. Oxford University Press, 1998. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Concordia University Library, Montreal. 11 January 2010 http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t29.e956
  10. 10. What is Plain Language? Plain Language n. speech or writing that is direct, straightforward, unostentatious, or easily understood; (occas. also, esp. with intensifier) coarse or vulgar language; &quot;PLAIN LANGUAGE&quot; Oxford English Dictionary. Ed. ???? University Press, 2009. Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press. Concordia University Library, Montreal. 11 January 2010 http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t29.e956
  11. 11. Plain Language <ul><li>Plain language enables more users to understand; new immigrants where English is not their first language, ESL students, children, and people with learning disabilities. </li></ul><ul><li>Plain language saves time and money. There are fewer errors in communication and this means greater efficiency for an organization. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Consistency <ul><li>“ Why be consistent? Things are always changing….” </li></ul><ul><li>The following quote (above) may be true BUT at any given time it may beneficial to be consistent. </li></ul><ul><li>For example: </li></ul><ul><li>Are we Reference Librarians? Liaison Librarians? Subject Librarians? Instruction Librarians? Instructional Librarians? Public Service Librarians? </li></ul><ul><li>Inter-library loan, Interlibrary Loan? </li></ul>
  13. 13. Consistency <ul><li>Examine your job title across the following media: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Business cards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Email signature </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Web site </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Marketing material </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Are they all written consistently? </li></ul><ul><li>Does it really matter? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Literature Review <ul><li>John B. Nicholson Jr. (1958) The jargon of librarianship, Aspects of librarianship, v.16, 1-34 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Analysed the ALA glossary of library terms . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>From 159 pages, 637 words were extracted from the first 50 pages. Of the 637 words: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>51% were unique library terms </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>30% were book trade terms </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>13% were scholarly terms </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>6% were general terms </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Nicholson found that library jargon is mostly composed of abbreviations and initials. </li></ul><ul><li>Nicholson also found that different library workers have their own set of jargon. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Literature Review <ul><li>Rachel Naismith and Joan Stein (1989) Library jargon: student comprehension of technical language used by librarians, College and Research Libraries , v. 50, 543-552 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Graduate students selected library terms from </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>10 most popular library guides </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>reference interview transcripts. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Terms were counted and ranked by frequency. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>10 most popular terms were used for testing. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tested against 100 freshmen students. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>51% success rate </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Literature Review <ul><li>Norman B. Hutcherson (2004) Library jargon: student recognition of terms and concepts commonly used by librarians in the classroom, College and Research Libraries, 349-354 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>32 terms were selected from library literature and reference desk experience , classroom observation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2 sets of surveys with 15 multiple choice questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>297 completed surveys </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Given during a 7 week library instruction class between Sept 2000-June 2003 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>62.3% correct responses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most successful terms;plagiarism, reference services, research, copyright, table of contents, synonym </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Least successful terms;boolean, bibliography, controlled vocabulary, truncation, descriptors, citation, authority </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Literature Review <ul><li>B. Battleson and J. Weintrop (2000) University Libraries Nomenclature Test Using the Card Sort Method, Summary Report, State University of New York at Buffalo. </li></ul><ul><li>9 subjects asked to sort 34 standard index cards into categories that would appear as links on library web site </li></ul><ul><li>“ Electronic resources” and “reference” were rarely selected. </li></ul><ul><li>1/3 used the term “catalogue” </li></ul><ul><li>They understood “course reserve” and used the term “Internet” often. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Literature Review <ul><li>J ohn Kupersmith (2002) Clearinghouse of Usability Studies on Library Jargon. ( www.jkup.net ) 2002-2010. </li></ul><ul><li>Includes an annotated bibliography of 47 usability studies with summaries of their findings. </li></ul><ul><li>Terms most mis-understood; index, interlibrary loan, reference, web guide, serial, resource, acronyms and brand names </li></ul><ul><li>Terms most understood; find books, find articles, using natural language </li></ul><ul><li>He presented his research at the 2005 Internet Librarian conference. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Literature Review <ul><li>Kupersmith's conclusions: </li></ul><ul><li>Test your users and compare with other academic institutions test data </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid jargon, OPAC brand names, and acronyms </li></ul><ul><li>Use natural language on top level pages </li></ul><ul><li>Explain confusing terms by providing a glossary or use ALT tags on library web site. </li></ul><ul><li>Provide alternative paths (cross referencing or duplicate paths on library web site) </li></ul><ul><li>Be consistent. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Method <ul><li>3 questionnaires </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Questionnaire on consistency; 687 responses from library staff </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Questionnaire on library terms; 525 responses from library staff </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Student questionnaire on library terms; 300 responses (Fall 2009) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Participants were recruited from listservs: </li></ul><ul><li>(CACUL, CANMEDLIB, MEDLIB-L, LIBREF, academicpr-ala, ili-ala, publib, infolit, & ALF-L) </li></ul>
  21. 21. Questions <ul><li>Are the following terms consistent on the library web site, marketing material, signage, business cards, and email signatures? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Library catalogue </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Job title </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Databases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ILL/DD </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Results 83% yes 17% no N=531 Job title on business card consistent with web site?
  23. 23. Results Job title on email signature consistent with web site? 84% yes 16% no N=568
  24. 24. Results Interlibrary Loan signage is consistent with marketing material? Yes 76% No 24% N=365
  25. 25. Results Interlibrary Loan signage is consistent with web site? Yes 78% No 22% N=367
  26. 26. Databases link (on web page) consistent with marketing materials? Yes 67% No 33% N=581 Results
  27. 27. Results Library catalogue written consistently in signage and web site? Yes 80.45% No 19.55% N=574
  28. 28. Results Library catalogue written consistently on signage and on marketing materials Yes 79.6% No 20.4% N=603
  29. 29. Conclusions of the Study <ul><li>Job titles are 83%-84% consistent. </li></ul><ul><li>Interlibrary loan is 74%-77% consistent. </li></ul><ul><li>Databases is 66% consistent. </li></ul><ul><li>Library catalogue is 79%-80% consistent. </li></ul><ul><li>From nearly 700 respondents: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>54% do not plan on creating a standardized list of library jargon. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>10% think it is a great idea. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>10% are in the process of creating a standardized list. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>26% are undecided. </li></ul></ul>
  30. 30. Student / Librarian Preferences to Library Jargon <ul><li>2 questionnaires </li></ul><ul><li>Twenty four (24) terms were selected from library literature, library instruction classes, and reference desk interactions. </li></ul><ul><li>In Fall 2009, multiple choice questionnaire (7 questions) was distributed to CSI students before a library instruction class . </li></ul><ul><li>Garnered 300 responses from undergraduate and graduate students </li></ul><ul><li>Garnered 525 responses from librarians and library staff </li></ul>
  31. 31. Student Preferences to Library Jargon on the CSI Library Web Site <ul><li>Questions pertained to the following terms : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Library Catalogue </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Databases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Research Guides </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interlibrary Loan/Document Delivery </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Citing Your References </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E-Reference Collection </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Sample question <ul><li>If you are looking for books on the library web site, how would the link be best written? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Library Catalogue </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Find Books </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Catalogue </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Books </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Book Catalogue </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. The Student Questionnaire 54% freshmen, 16.3% sophomore, 10% junior, 15.3% senior
  34. 34. 54% freshmen, 16.3% sophomore, 10% junior, 15.3% senior The Student Questionnaire
  35. 35. 54% freshmen, 16.3% sophomore, 10% junior, 15.3% senior The Student Questionnaire
  36. 36. 54% freshmen, 16.3% sophomore, 10% junior, 15.3% senior The Student Questionnaire
  37. 37. Librarian/Library Staff Response Other: WebPAC Brand name of OPAC Online Catalog(ue) OPAC PAC Books, video, and more The Librarian Questionnaire
  38. 38. Librarian/Library Staff Response Other: Online Resources Magazines and Newspapers E-Resources Journals Online Databases Article Databases Find Articles Library Databases Articles and More Digital Articles The Librarian Questionnaire
  39. 39. Librarian/Library Staff Response Other: LibGuides HelpSheets Finding Aids Quick Start Guides Subject Portal Course Guides Research Help Info Guide Topic Guide Subject Research Guide The Librarian Questionnaire
  40. 40. Creating a Standardized List of library Terms 1 :Find Articles USEFOR Periodical Databases USEFOR Indexes and Abstracts USEFOR Databases RT Find Books RT Find E-Books RT Library catalogue 2 : Library catalogue USE Find books 3 : Periodical Databases USE Find Articles
  41. 41. Conclusions <ul><li>Maintaining consistency (in jargon) makes it less confusing for library users. </li></ul><ul><li>Minimizing jargon is optimal and may improve learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Plain Language does not “dumb” down the information </li></ul><ul><li>Plain language allows users to get their information with less obstacles </li></ul>
  42. 42. Thank you. Questions? [email_address]

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