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Patrol Your Vocabulary with Patrons

Monday, July 20, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Nathan Swartzendruber
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Have you ever been talking to a patron and seen a blank look cross their face, then realize that you'd said OPAC or used some other library term? It's an easy slip-up to make.

This is a customer service issue, not just a slip in language. Good customer service means you match your language to the person you're speaking to, and you stay attentive for clues that your words are making sense. Just because "catalog" is basic library vocabulary doesn't mean everyone knows it.

I think jargon is easier to watch out for than buzzwords or business-speak. It's easy to pick up a word or phrase whose meaning is less clear than the simple word it's replacing. The federal government is actually hard at work on improving this in their writing. The 18F Content Guide is brief and has lots of helpful advice on using plain language.

Sometimes we're using a college word when a ten cent word will do. There's no need to leverage knowledge when you can use it. But sometimes we use vague words precisely because they're imprecise. Saying a project took countless hours may mean that no one spent the effort to count. What's supposed to sound impressive can end up sounding lazy. There are lots more examples at

Unless you're trying to avoid answering questions at a hostile press conference, aim for word choices that are simple and specific. They help your patrons leave with smiles on their faces.

  • Nathan Swartzendruber, SWON Technology Educator

Customer Service Circus: October 14

If you work with customers — either patrons or library staff — then this customer service day is for you. Taking the place of our fall Staff Training Symposium, the Customer Service Circus is a full day of interactive customer service training.

Are you a teen service librarian, or you have student workers or volunteers? Do you work with older adult patrons, or you have a not-so-great working relationship with an older adult staff member? Whatever your library type or position, we'll help you with these and other customer service issues.

Library work can feel chaotic. Let us help you improve your balance during this day together, which costs just $35 for Supporting Members, October 14th in Burlington, Kentucky. Register for the Customer Service Circus!

Is your marketing helpful?

Marketing spreads the news about your library, which is good for you. How can you coach patrons to pay attention to your marketing? One way is the content marketing approach: include information in your marketing so that people get something out of reading it.

At next week's Content Marketing Level-Up Lab, Nathan will share some marketing basics and talk about the content marketing approach that SWON has taken. We'll practice this approach and discuss content marketing ideas for programs and services your library. Register now for this free event!

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