What’s in a word?

Catalogablog had an interesting post on Friday.   An excerpt:

… Beth Jefferson from Bibliocommons said she doesn’t refer to their product as a social ILS. Amazon is not called a social book seller, they have lots of social content and tools, but that is just the way the Web works now. They are just a book seller and Bibliocommons is just an ILS ….

David links to the latest Library 2.0 webcast, which is where he was struck by Beth’s comment.  I admit, I also have found much of what Beth says useful.  At ALA, she emphasized the term “re-thinking” rather than “resuscitating” when speaking about the future of our library catalogues. 

What’s in a word?  There are always buzz words, words of the day and words to avoid.  For instance, “patron” is no longer acceptable, but “tweeting” is hot.  Is the term “social” out?  Isn’t it just a descriptor, or should we be looking at a bigger picture, where the “social” aspect is just one component of the next generation catalogue?



Filed under future of cataloguing, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

5 responses to “What’s in a word?

  1. Um, who declared “patron” unacceptable, and in which contexts? Many of us librarians over at FriendFeed recently had this discussion and at least half of us are quite accepting of it as a generic term, at least in public and academic libraries; corporate, no.

  2. Laurel Tarulli

    Mark – “patron” is a wonderful term, but not what many libraries are using in an effort to more, hmmm, *appropriately* describe those who use public libraries. I haven’t followed the conversations on FriendFeed, but I have read literature on this and following listerv conversations.

    The point of this post really deals with the importance of terms we use and to question those terms. Should we be using social to describe our catalogues? Is it too narrow in terminology? Why has the term patron fallen out of use in many libraries? Hopefully, this post gets us thinking about the terms we do use, the context we use them in and the point we are trying to make when we use them.

    To use your example of “patron”, many libraries view this term as traditional and, in an effort to increase their appeal and the changing nature of libraries, we’re exploring other terms such as users and clients. Are any of them wrong or right? I don’t think so. However, Beth’s point of just viewing BiblioCommons as a new ILS is important. Instead of latching on to one concept, she’s emphasizing that this is the new ILS. I believe that her point is that we don’t have to throw buzz words in to attract attention. Instead, we should confidently say that these are the new ILS’s, with no apologies or added descriptions.

  3. Lynn

    Terms are always tricky. At Regina Public, we try to use a variety of terms with the public because some patrons (and yes, we use patrons) know “catalogue” but many don’t. That said, we never use acronyms and strive to be consistent.

    As for “social”… I don’t think we use that term with the patrons. Earlier on there was use of “Web 2.0” but that has given way to just “tools” or the name of the class of tool (“blogs”, “reviews”, “wikis”).

  4. I agree about the point of your post, Laurel, and it *is* a good point. I’ve seen those discussions re “patron” elsewhere also and I am open to people using what works for them.

    What I have a problem with is them then telling anyone else what they need to use. I also completely fail to see what is wrong with the traditional when it still serves its intended purpose. “Member” is another good term, esp. for public libraries.

    Personally, I despise the use of “customer,” esp. in public libraries. Corporate & certain special libraries seem a likely place for it. “User” is more generic than “reader” but can also have negative connotations for some.

    Have you seen Iris Jastram’s post on the topic of this term?: http://pegasuslibrarian.com/2009/07/whats-in-term.html

    I mainly just asked my question as it seemed you were making the claim that “patron” was out vs. your actual claim as I now understand it that some have declared it out. Thanks for the clarification.

  5. Laurel Tarulli

    Hi Mark
    Thanks for responding. No, I haven’t seen Iris Jastram’s post, but I will definitely check it out.

    I know, it can get frustrating with who’s using what term, what people like or don’t like and so on. In all things, it’s best to decide what works for each individual library/library system and what you’re comfortable with. When I’m writing a paper, I tend to use the term “user”. However, if I’m writing a paper geared toward RA work, I use “Reader”. Believe it or not, in my everyday conversations, I use “patron”. I like the term!

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