2/25/2015

lost in translation, or destroy all jargon fiends



Librarians love Jargon.
Its the cream cheese icing to our red velvet cake of organizational policy and process.
Take for instant the word “accession" - a perfect example of how librarians love the Jargon.
Under normal circumstances the word would mean attaining a position of rank that is far superior to the one you had before. In Librarian lingo, it means to record the details of an item to a catalog. 
(oooh, there's that tingle!)
Along with accession, we have “dewey” or “DDC”, “Ref interview”, “The Catalogue” (“the” is required because the catalog is considered to  be slightly less holier than “The” Pope)  “End User” “Outreach” “OPAC” “Fiction” “Non Fiction” “Study Collection”
There are much more of these little jargon fiends that creep into the brain and pretend they’re normal words to our librarian eyes but contrary to popular belief, a “borrower” doesn’t know what the heck an OPAC is.
And if you give them a Dewey number, you better give them a map, a GPS and a magic crystal to find their way back from Narnia.
The Jargon fiend words are the pits because they indulge their existence by making us feel important for knowing them. It is important that we know these things but its not good to inflict them on our public.
To prevent us (Librarian Jargon aficionado's) from sneaking in jargon fiend words with your dialogue with the public, I suggest the following:
Find in your library anything that is Jargon that you are using to communicate with patrons.
If that communication contains a jargon fiend word without an explanation - take it out and use the explanation instead.
For Example: if OPAC is stuck on the public access PC, remove it and replace with a “Find what you’re looking for, over here.”
Now if you’re doing this sort of thing already, well then good for you, and apologies for the completely obvious observations. 
However might I suggest then that you go to your shelves, find the non fiction section, go to the nearest book about birds, find the label on the spine, look at it with the intent  and purpose and then ask loudly:  “Just how easy are you to find?”
If you get no response from the book in question, that is in fact okay. You can image an answer and it will go like this:
”To find me, someone has to find out what your hours are, then come into the library, decipher whatever signage is on a wall trying to explain Dewey. Then get it completely wrong. Go to the desk, stand in the line to ask for the book they’re looking for. Have the librarian explain its in the library and attached to this funny little number. The person goes back to the funny sign to decipher the funny number, before looking through all the books in the section called “study collection” completely not finding me. 
At this point the patron is confused, angry and just a bit pissed and instead opts to wait in line at Smartcape to look up the information I contain on Wikipedia. While I remain unloved, untaken  and universally wondering WTF Dewey!”
 "Sometimes its hard to admit its over".

The last thing the book says before we turn our imaginings elsewhere is:
“Sigh. Maybe an app could help”

So if you have wondering tribes of searching patrons getting lost amongst your shelves, or your Smart cape is bursting at the seams  with users wanting information, consider that your worst enemy might be your best friends: Dewey and his Jargon ilk.

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