Library jargon

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Like most professions, librarianship is jargon-heavy. Who outside the library field knows what we mean by bibliographic control, or LC subject heading? Library jargon poses particular problems for international students whose first language is not English. Many of the terms we use frequently in our instruction sessions have multiple meanings. A citation can be what you get for a parking violation, abstract is a kind of art, and a journal is similar to a diary. I frequently get questions from students wondering if the books listed in our catalog under "Holdings" are on hold.

Even native speaking students may not know what we mean by these terms. I think we should try to make our website and our publications as jargon-free as possible. In class, if I use a term I think the students may not know, particularly with international students, I give a quick definition.

I've also tried giving students a set of index cards with library terms printed on them, and another set with definitions. With a partner or in a small group students match the terms with the definitions. There are also some free sites you can use to create virtual flashcards and vocabulary games. I've created some library vocabulary card sets using Quizlet and Study Stack.

You can see my library jargon tag cloud here:
jargon tag cloud.ppt

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About Me

      I am a reference and instruction librarian at Penn State University Libraries in Library Learning Services and Education and Behavioral Sciences.       

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