A few weeks ago I attended a great webinar presented by Jamie Matczak of the Nicolet Library System entitled “Marketing Words to Avoid.” I was reminded of the prevalence of “library-speak" that we as professionals tend to use that means absolutely nothing to our patrons. It may, in fact, prevent them from using the services we work so hard to provide.
Resource Sharing is a prime example. In the library world, resource sharing, ILL, interlibrary loan, interloan, outerlibray loan, interlending, and document delivery all refer to the same activity: the process in which library materials not owned by the user’s local library may be requested and obtained from other libraries. Interlibrary loan is a model for the efficient use of public resources and is an ideal process for ensuring equal access to materials, but without a clear message may be underused.
In 2012, John Kuppersmith published a study, Library Terms that Users Understand -- http://escholarship.org/uc/item/3qq499w7.
In 51 usability studies, he identified 10 terms or phrases consistently misunderstood by library users.
- Interlibrary Loan
- Acronyms & brand names
- Library Catalog
- Periodical or Serial
- Subject categories such as humanities
Interlibrary loan is right up there at the top. Add to that our own use of 7 different terms, no wonder users are confused! If we use natural language instead to define this process, we may open a whole new world for our local communities.