16 October 2013

On not assuming we speak the same language

For last six weeks, I've made a point of asking college newbies whether they've heard an expression "a library catalogue". Very few, certainly fewer than one in ten, said they did. They were surprised, and I am surprised too: it has taken me seven years to appreciate an obvious fact that I speak a different language, than my library users do.
As part of library sessions, I now ask whether people have seen Argos catalogues; virtually all have. I ask what is the purpose of those catalogues; with no exceptions learners correctly say: to show what the shop has to offer and how to get it.
Exactly the same is true about the library catalogue which is not on paper, but online, - I say - just like a search box on the Argos website.
And then we dive into the deeper waters of locations, shelfmarks, accessions, reservations... - I wonder how many of those words cause cognitive dissonance in our users.