Thursday, November 19, 2009

Say What?

If you were accidentally kidnapped and taken to the planet Marshmallow because of an evil scheme to take over the world devised by a talking starfish and asked to shave your head, dance the macarena, and then recite the Pledge of Allegiance in pig Latin while competing in Dance Dance Revolution to a song by Miley Cyrus that was written by a guy whose mom was in love with Kirk Cameron in the 80s and whose best friend won an Oscar for best make-up artist, would you want Coke or Pepsi to drink?

Um, did you get that?

Probably not. And this is the confusion our patrons feel when we use library lingo. Being a non-librarian, I often smile at my co-workers and say, "Um, I have no idea what you just said." They appreciate that I represent the average patron, so they take the time to explain - after they tease me.

Databases, cataloging, circ desks, marc tags, OPAC, bibliographic records, and holds. Ouch!!! That makes my brain hurt. I'm not afraid to ask for clarification, but what if our patrons are intimidated or afraid to ask?

Our library is a service to our community. To get our patrons more engaged in their library, let's avoid requiring them to see things in librarian terms, but rather shape our lingo to their understanding.

See how any times today you can catch yourself or your co-workers using library lingo.


  1. Staff use of library lingo with the public is a pet peeve of mine, Laurie. And I think it's perfect that you are NOT a librarian in our outreach position because I appreciate the wording you use whe you create flyers, etc. Your posters for Library Home Delivery, for instance, offered things available in common language, not library cataloging terms. Thanks for reminding us.


  2. What is spoken in the back room of the library STAYS in the back room of the library. BUT please don't expect cataloguers to refrain from using MARC jargon with each other -- or reference librarians from identifying themselves with their Secret Handshake.

  3. Hey now! I don't know the secret handshake! ;-)