Jargon vs vocabulary

Librarians are often advised not use technical library words (e.g. catalogue) when talking to students1.  However, I think it is important to introduce new vocabulary (with definition or explanation) to someone who is learning to navigate the information environment, just as we would do when teaching them about their subject in a study context.  Giving the student some understanding of how they can interact most effectively with the computer interface or card index will empower them to become an expert user of the library’s search and retrieval tools.

Perhaps the difference between jargon and vocabulary is the ease with which one can discover the definition of a word.  To facilitate this, introduce new terms in context, with explanation.  If the word appears on a webpage rather than during a teaching session, link to a definition.  Here’s a comprehensive list of library jargon from Oxford Brookes uni library (and there are many others) – though I would argue that by defining the terms, they are no longer jargon but vocabulary.

I recently read Randall Munroe’s book Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words.  This book covers “all kinds of neat stuff” (mostly scientific topics) and the titles, labels, and descriptions on each diagram are all written using only the thousand most common English words.  Some reviewers who gave the book a poor rating seem to have confused “simple words” with “simple concepts”, and I would not consider this an entry-level book.  I found it much easier to understand the diagrams with whose topic I was already familiar.  The “simple words” concept also shows how important specialist language is – without it, “water” can mean virtually any liquid, and does not differentiate between H2O, blood, and cytoplasm.

Extract from "Thing Explainer" by Randall Munroe

Extract from “Thing Explainer” by Randall Munroe

Once a teacher, always a teacher… and I found myself pondering how such diagrams could be useful in a lesson to reinforce learning of specialist terms and the importance of being able to distinguish between them.

I wished that Randall could have included a key – a way to find out which terms/keywords I would need to know in order to find out more about a topic.  And that brings me back to students and academic libraries – if students know the names of and some of the basic differences between our search tools (e.g. catalogue, discovery, repository), they will be better able to choose the most appropriate one for the task they need to do.

1 Meredith Schwartz ‘Users Don’t Know What Libraries Are Talking About, Studies Find’ (Library Journal, 15 March 2012) <http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/03/academic-libraries/users-dont-know-what-libraries-are-talking-about-studies-find/>

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Highlights from Oxford Social Media Day 2011

Oxford Social Media Day 2011 took place on 8th September.  I live-tweeted the event and you can search for #osm11 on Twitter for all related tweets.

Now that many libraries are using social media, this aim of the day was to be inspired to take it further.  Our  five speakers did an excellent job and here are my top take-home tips.

  • Jo talked about how librarians interact with many different groups of users and stakeholders in our work, and asked us each to prepare a 30-second elevator pitch to market our skills to one of those groups.
  • This was great for practising my skills in “selling” the library and its services to senior management, students or academics.
  • People will infer things from your brand even if you don’t actively manage it.  For the next exercise, we had to think of 3 words or phrases to describe the brand we would like to convey.
  • Use namecheckr  to see if your username is available on a range of social sites
  • It’s important to keep your brand consistent across different social media sites
  • In social media, commitment to community not the tool is important – go to the sites where your users are.

Public library social media policy #osm11

  • Public libraries & museums act 1964 – key legislation relating to how public libraries operate today
  • Some things you don’t know in advance, and can’t predict if a venture will work – you just have to try it out
  • Need qualitative data to assess effectiveness of service delivery
  • Risk aversion makes things difficult (same problem in universities)
  • Use social media for service delivery – go beyond using it simply as an announcement service
  • The worst possible social media strategy: “we want a Facebook/Twitter/whatever page”
  • Libraries can get involved in online forums as well as the main social media sites
  • What would you expect from a public library’s social media presence?

Ideas from the audience: Mumsnet, catch kids young, involve community groups, book clubs, humour

Ideas from people on Twitter: Direct contact with someone who can answer queries, not just referral to an FAQ page (via @stormfilled); Up-to-date info & speedy, personal, informal response to enquiries (via @archelina)

Marketing academic libraries in a web 2 world

View more presentations from Ned Potter
  • Social media gives great opportunity to listen as well as post
  • No one cares about the “how” – focus on benefits not features, outcomes not process (in the words of @radfemburlesque: Don’t say “hey, we have books” – say “hey, we can get you a first / make your 2.1 less work”)
  • Recommended sites for Twitter analysis: Twocation, Tweetstats, Klout. Focus on improving engagement stats rather than how many followers you have
  • Use Facebook to rescue buried treasure – highlight features of the library
  • “One minute on… “ technique for making short and snappy videos. e.g. One minute on e-journals
  • Use focus groups to get useful and honest feedback about your service

Andrew Hood from Lynchpin Analytics on Measuring social media success (presentation available to download)

  • Monitoring vs measurement – translating what we’ve measured into “has it worked?”
  • The monitoring challenge: capture, collate, filter, category, sentiment, classify, trend, risk analysis, respond
  • Risk analysis – or opportunity analysis (turn problem into opportunity?)
  • Don’t report on something if you can’t do anything about it – use metrics for factors you can influence
  • Monitoring tips: set up RSS searches and collate
  • Measuring tips: document KPIs, use Google Analytics, benchmark by traffic source & engagement

Duncan Smith of iCompli on Social network sites: managing risks (presentation available to download)

  • Something defamatory + published = libel. Things previously said in private now published publicly
  • Not allowed to run competitions on Facebook
  • Contempt of court: do not publish anything to do with a court case (esp. imp. for local authorities)
  • Employee use of social networks – employees with access should have ‘basic’ legal training
  • BBC’s guidance/policy docs on social media – managers “should not adopt an overly restrictive approach”
  • You are responsible for moderated comments on your blog because you authorised/published them
  • Good idea to have a “notice and take down” procedure – could be just an email address to contact
  • Data Guidance – good for legal info (subscription resource)

A very thought-provoking day… I find myself dwelling on issues of the last presentation in particular.

I would love to think that most employees are intelligent enough to know what is appropriate use of social media (or ask if they’re not sure) and I worry that too much bureaucracy will extinguish the sparks of imagination and creativity that make social media such a dynamic and fun way to reach out to our users.

I’m pondering how to write a titanium* social media policy that would still have enough oomph to be meaningful and act as a useful tool for staff; while avoiding being just another work-related document that you have to sign to say you have read but then forget about**.

*Low density, lightweight but strong.  See what I did there?
**Examples: equal opportunities policy, smokefree policy, use of IT policy, health and safety policy, fire safety policy (I could go on)… all worthy aims but bogged down by documents that can feel more like a noose than an airbag.