[Web4lib] Friendly language

Walker, David dwalker at calstate.edu
Mon Feb 1 13:35:50 EST 2010

I think there's a difference between what you call a department or a service, and what text you put on a website to direct users to that department or service.

You might still call it the Registrar's Office, for example, but the campus portal could nevertheless have a link that says 'register for classes'.

To pick another example closer to home: you might have a link on your library home page that says 'books' that takes you to the catalog, even though the catalog contains more than just books.  A separate link on the home page titled 'videos' might *also* take you to the catalog (although maybe now with a format limit pre-set).

In other words, there doesn't need to be a one-to-one correspondence between the website and the org chart.  You can have multiple links on the website focused around *tasks* that user understands, even if some of those tasks take you to the same system or service desk.

> I believe most of us put materials on reserve 
> because different use conditions apply to them

Exactly right.  That an item is at the Reserves Desk is really a matter of internal circulation policies.  

Which is why we probably shouldn't focus on "reserves" in and of themselves on the website.  That would be like having a link for "oversized books" on the website.  These reflect *internal* library needs, not end-user distinctions.

It seems to me that reserves data should really be exposed to other places -- Learning Management Systems, for example -- where it can be combined with other 'course' materials, including e-reserves, which the library might also manage. 


David Walker
Library Web Services Manager
California State University
From: web4lib-bounces at webjunction.org [web4lib-bounces at webjunction.org] On Behalf Of Bob Duncan [duncanr at lafayette.edu]
Sent: Monday, February 01, 2010 9:47 AM
To: web4lib
Subject: Re: [Web4lib] Friendly language

At 10:51 AM 2/1/2010, Walker, David wrote:
> > I don't hear students talk about "skipping course"
> > but they do say "skipping class"
>I think that's because an individual meeting of a course is always
>called a class.  So, unless you're skipping the course entirely,
>you'd always be "skipping class."
>I do like "Assigned Class Readings," though.

Yeah, it's nice, but as a substitute for "reserves" it would only
make sense if everything on reserve is assigned and everything
assigned for a class is on reserve.  In our library, use of materials
on reserve might be suggested but optional and some assigned readings
might be somewhere other than on reserve -- if a student can't deal
with "reserves," I seriously doubt s/he could figure out the vagaries
of "assigned class readings."  (Not to mention that some reserve
materials have no connection to courses or classes.)

I could be wrong, but I believe most of us put materials on reserve
because different use conditions apply to them -- "reserves" is a
word that has a specific and pretty widely-accepted meaning that
makes sense.  I'm all for friendly language, but the specific
meanings of words in context help facilitate communication, even when
the words might border on jargonish.  Our students know all about the
very friendly "office where you sign up for and drop classes," but
somehow they've managed to come to grips with the more efficient term
"registrar's office" without undue anguish.  IMO, a  college student
who can't deal with the occasional "unfriendly" correct term needs to
get a grip, and I don't think we do them a service by trying to come
up with alternatives that may or may not make sense just because
they're more palatable.

Bob "still looking for the gas pedal on my electric car...I wonder
what that accelerator thingie does?" Duncan

Robert E. Duncan
Systems Librarian
Editor of IT Communications
Lafayette College
Easton, PA  18042
duncanr at lafayette.edu

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