The LAUW Journal Club met over chocolate-covered strawberries¹ in July to discuss the article “Student preferences in library website vocabulary” by former uWaterloo Librarian Mark Aaron Polger.
Polger’s article appeared in the recently-published Library Philosophy and Practice 2011 and reports on a study that he conducted to explore student preferences on library website vocabulary in comparison to actual vocabulary used on library websites, as reported by librarians. Polger gathered student feedback by surveying students at his library (the College Staten Island branch of the City University of New York Libraries) and librarian feedback by distributing his questionnaire on six listservs (CACUL, CANMEDLIB, MEDLIB-L, LIBREF, academicpr , and ili-l).
Polger’s findings confirmed what most of us expected – that students prefer natural language and that most library websites don’t use it. We addressed each of the questionnaire findings and discussed more broadly our own experiences of library jargon (which led to some interesting tangents on “citations” vs. “references” and the ambiguity of the word “research”). We soon arrived at some larger questions:
- Is there a place for library jargon in some cases? A few of us wondered if it’s actually possible (or even desirable) to completely do away with all library jargon.
- Is it more important to get rid of all library jargon or to get consistent with our use of it?
- How do other libraries determine what vocabulary to use? We brainstormed how we might get a handle of it at Waterloo – what approach would make sense, who would be involved/consulted, etc.
- Where do personal preferences fit in? Or do they? Some of us questioned whether or not librarians should be able to choose their own vocabulary on certain pages like on their subject guides. This came up after someone pointed out that librarians refer to themselves inconsistently in the profile pages of our Library’s subject guides (variations include, but are not limited to, “Librarian,” “Liaison Librarian,” “Your Librarian,” “Librarian Profile,” “Your Waterloo Librarian”).
The timing of this journal club meeting was fortunate, as we are in the midst of a project to review the vocabulary and use of jargon on our website in preparation for our upcoming website redesign.
Thanks to everyone who made it out to this meeting. Hope to see you out next month as well!
¹If you haven’t attended a meeting yet, perhaps you should consider it.