January 30th, 2014 Brian Herzog
Here's something fun: the recent post on iLibrarian (one of my favorite blogs) covers "6 Terms that Instantly Reveal You as a Librarian."
I'm as much a fan of stereotypes as the next guy - especially in the "your language is your identity" theme - and some of these really made me laugh for how spot-on they were:
- Primary Sources
The only people I've heard use "primary sources" are academics, or students of academics who were told to find primary sources but have no idea what they are.
I would submit a few more, too: serials, definitely (and even periodicals for that matter); databases; pathfinder; bibliography.
What kind of librarian jargon do you think makes us stand out?
January 11th, 2014 Brian Herzog
One of my favorite things about working at a Reference Desk is encountering things I probably would never have found in my normal life. This question wasn't at all challenging, but it's something I probably never would have known had this patron not called.
So, a patron calls and asks if we have a encyclopedia of music theory. I said we didn't, which is true, but I told her we have lots of music books, which is also true, and I figured we could find in one of them whatever she was looking for. She seemed skeptical, but was willing to let me try. So then she asks her question:
In regards to music theory, can you tell me what a licorice stick is?
Now, even though I grew up in Ohio and speak like a Midwesterner (which is to say, proper American English), I usually have no trouble deciphering the New England accent here in Massachusetts. However, I had no idea what this woman just said, so I asked her to repeat it. Twice. When I asked her to spell it, she finally she said, "licorice, you know, like the candy."
I could feel her skepticism growing, but now at least I knew the question.
And we're already a minute or two into this call, so in the interest of speed, I do a quick search online for "licorice stick" music theory - and it turns out that was enough. From skimming the first page of results, the consensus was that "licorice stick" is what jazz musicians call a clarinet.
I relayed this the patron, and her response was,
Oh yes, that makes sense, now can you tell me Benny Goodman's first name? Have you heard of him? Was his first name really Benjamin, or something else?
Again, a quick web search and Wikipedia told me his full name is Benjamin David "Benny" Goodman. The patron thanked me and hung up.
I knew jazz people have words and jargon unto themselves, but this was a term I'd never heard - and not being a jazz person myself, may never hear again. But if I do, I'm hep, daddy-o.
April 18th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Here's a topic that I've heard come up multiple times recently in different contexts, and I'm curious if there is any kind of wider consensus on it. The question is, what does the word "video" mean to people?
We're redesigning our catalog, and in the process of coming up with format description, we had a discussion (and disagreement) on whether "video" means just VHS tapes, or if it refers to to DVDs and other formats as well (like "music" is a generic term for anything on CD, tape, etc). We're also redesigning our website, and in that context, we weren't sure if the word "video" means physical tapes/discs, or if people would presume it means online clips/episodes/tutorials/etc - or both.
So I thought I'd take a quick poll - please make a selection, but also leave a comment below on why, or if I've missed an option entirely.
And a question for another time: in light of this, does the "video" in "video game" make sense?
Tags: blu-ray, dvd, format, formats, jargon, libraries, Library, movie, poll, public, television, terminology, tv, vhs, video, vocabulary
March 13th, 2010 Brian Herzog
Here's a good example of the danger of jargon.
We have one semi-regular patron who often appears to be drunk when she's in the library. Despite our suspicions, as long as she doesn't violate our general behavior policy*, we treat her like any other patron.
One day this week she came up to the desk and asked if I could help her on the computer. Back at her workstation, she was on the website of a heavy-duty makeup product she said she wanted to purchase. They had an online order form, but since she didn't have a credit card, the patron wanted to find a list of local stores carried it.
I helped her navigate around the website, but there was no link to or listing of local retailers. There was an email contact form, and I said the quickest way to find out where she could buy it was to fill out that form and ask them. She said okay, and I went back to the desk.
A little while later, she came back up to the desk and asked if I could help her print something. When I got to her workstation this time, she was on the same website, except the right-click menu was popped up. The patron pointed to it and said,
See, right there, it says "Copy Link Location." You print out a copy of their location list, because that link goes to their locations.
For being under the influence, even partially, I thought this was actually a very astute connection. It took me a good five minutes to explain to her that "link location" was a computer term meaning the address of that web page, and not the physical locations of stores. Reluctantly she accepted this, sat back down, and I went back to the desk.
A little while after that, she came and got me again, saying she found a list of the stores and needed help printing. This time when I got to her computer, the Print dialog box was up, and she said,
When I clicked that this box came up, and it has a button you click to see all their properties. When I click it I don't see the stores they own, so you print out that list for me.
Again, I have never thought about the use of this term in that context, but I can see why it made complete sense to her. But, again, I had to explain to her that the Properties button didn't refer to real estate properties, but the settings of the printer.
By this time she was exasperated at my total inability to print a list of stores for her. We clicked around the website again, but still there was no list of retail outlets to be found. I asked if she had submitted the Contact Us form, and she replied with something indecipherable.
It was almost closing time then, so she gave up and left**. I feel bad I couldn't find what she wanted, but that product was definitely geared for online sales. Hopefully the company will write her with the information she needs.
*Which has happened, and in those cases we have called the police.
**On her bicycle.