HILJClub: Library jargon creates barriers for potential users of health library and information services.

The paper for discussion is Kiely, Helen (2020) Library jargon creates barriers for potential users of health library and information services, Health Information and Libraries Journal, 37(3), pp. 228-232. https://doi.org/10.1111/hir.12289

Joining in on this one a little late but this was a fascinating article and it has given me so much to think about in terms of my own practice. I think we use jargon because it’s what is familiar to us as library workers and we sometimes exist in our own library bubble. The use of jargon is also intimidating for new library staff as well as our users so I don’t know why we do it. But it is a problem across many sectors including medicine, IT services and other specialist services. I am going to try to be really conscious of this from now on and check that people understand and not make assumptions about prior knowledge. I did the 30 min ELFH health literacy module recently and it included some really nice tools to use in conversation to ensure people understand: the teach back method and chunk and check.

Library inductions are such an difficult task – there is so much to cover and it’s overwhelming for users. That’s if you are lucky enough to even get an audience with new staff in the first place. Induction is an important starting point and we should re-evaluate how we deliver our inductions and training – at least gauging people’s understanding of our services and language in the first instance. A game such as Dr Jargon as mentioned above, could be an effective way of introducing people to our jargon. I created a beta version of a game for a teaching course assessment a while back and it had a similar focus. I think I will create a new version for our library here at ELHT and test it. The idea is to get people familiar with the key services and the language first – then they can learn how to use them later. A game could be great icebreaker during outreach activities too.

I agree we have a lot of work to do when it comes to our use of language and a standardised approach would be welcome but until that happens (not holding my breath), it needs to be at the forefront of our minds when engaging with users. A health library glossary could be nice and could be something we share at induction and at other service points. There are a few University libraries now that have published library language glossaries for their international students. But I’d be interested to know how well these are used and do they actually make a difference? People have to be quite proactive and accept that they do not know what things mean before they go to a glossary and look things up. It’s not all doom and gloom though – simple, easy changes will make a huge difference here.

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