Re-thinking Library Jargon: Maintaining Consistency and Using Plain LanguagePresentation Transcript
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
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
.....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….
What is this presentation about?
What is Jargon?
Problems associated with jargon
Why consistency matters.
What is Plain Language?
3 Studies on Jargon and Plain Language:
Questionnaire on consistency of library jargon across Canadian and U.S. Academic institutions. (N=687)
Questionnaire on student preferences to library terms on the CSI library web site. (N=300)
Questionnaire on librarian preferences to library terms. (N=525)
How to develop a standardized list of consistent jargon
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: "JARGON" 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 >
Why does it matter?
We teach via verbal and written communication.
Our web site, marketing materials, the reference interview, and library instruction are full of jargon.
My employer, CUNY, 23 campuses, 500,000 students, has no standardized list of jargon.
Our use of language may have positive or negative effects when we're marketing our services and resources.
Why is Jargon important to us?
Group identification and community
Sense of comfort and cohesion
Specialized acronyms and expressions are easier to read and write
May give us a sense of authority or prestige
Why is Jargon Problematic?
Jargon may confuse users
Our users may not understand it.
Jargon may act as a barrier to learning.
Jargon may be perceived as elitist.
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. "PLAIN LANGUAGE" 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
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; "PLAIN LANGUAGE" 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
Plain language enables more users to understand; new immigrants where English is not their first language, ESL students, children, and people with learning disabilities.
Plain language saves time and money. There are fewer errors in communication and this means greater efficiency for an organization.
“ Why be consistent? Things are always changing….”
The following quote (above) may be true BUT at any given time it may beneficial to be consistent.
Are we Reference Librarians? Liaison Librarians? Subject Librarians? Instruction Librarians? Instructional Librarians? Public Service Librarians?
Inter-library loan, Interlibrary Loan?
Examine your job title across the following media:
Are they all written consistently?
Does it really matter?
John B. Nicholson Jr. (1958) The jargon of librarianship, Aspects of librarianship, v.16, 1-34
Analysed the ALA glossary of library terms .
From 159 pages, 637 words were extracted from the first 50 pages. Of the 637 words:
51% were unique library terms
30% were book trade terms
13% were scholarly terms
6% were general terms
Nicholson found that library jargon is mostly composed of abbreviations and initials.
Nicholson also found that different library workers have their own set of jargon.
Rachel Naismith and Joan Stein (1989) Library jargon: student comprehension of technical language used by librarians, College and Research Libraries , v. 50, 543-552
Graduate students selected library terms from
10 most popular library guides
reference interview transcripts.
Terms were counted and ranked by frequency.
10 most popular terms were used for testing.
Tested against 100 freshmen students.
51% success rate
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
32 terms were selected from library literature and reference desk experience , classroom observation
2 sets of surveys with 15 multiple choice questions
297 completed surveys
Given during a 7 week library instruction class between Sept 2000-June 2003
62.3% correct responses
Most successful terms;plagiarism, reference services, research, copyright, table of contents, synonym
Least successful terms;boolean, bibliography, controlled vocabulary, truncation, descriptors, citation, authority
B. Battleson and J. Weintrop (2000) University Libraries Nomenclature Test Using the Card Sort Method, Summary Report, State University of New York at Buffalo.
9 subjects asked to sort 34 standard index cards into categories that would appear as links on library web site
“ Electronic resources” and “reference” were rarely selected.
1/3 used the term “catalogue”
They understood “course reserve” and used the term “Internet” often.
J ohn Kupersmith (2002) Clearinghouse of Usability Studies on Library Jargon. ( www.jkup.net ) 2002-2010.
Includes an annotated bibliography of 47 usability studies with summaries of their findings.
Terms most mis-understood; index, interlibrary loan, reference, web guide, serial, resource, acronyms and brand names
Terms most understood; find books, find articles, using natural language
He presented his research at the 2005 Internet Librarian conference.
Test your users and compare with other academic institutions test data
Avoid jargon, OPAC brand names, and acronyms
Use natural language on top level pages
Explain confusing terms by providing a glossary or use ALT tags on library web site.
Provide alternative paths (cross referencing or duplicate paths on library web site)
Questionnaire on consistency; 687 responses from library staff
Questionnaire on library terms; 525 responses from library staff
Student questionnaire on library terms; 300 responses (Fall 2009)
Librarian/Library Staff Response Other: WebPAC Brand name of OPAC Online Catalog(ue) OPAC PAC Books, video, and more The Librarian Questionnaire
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
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
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
Maintaining consistency (in jargon) makes it less confusing for library users.
Minimizing jargon is optimal and may improve learning.
Plain Language does not “dumb” down the information
Plain language allows users to get their information with less obstacles