Trying hard to understand

In addition to all my work-related “chores”, I have several things on my To Do list for AASL. One of those is to help the organizers of our next national conference rate/review the proposals for presentations. Now, this is a chore that is actually a twofer: I can help (in a minor, minor way) decide what attendees will actually do, and I can eavesdrop to help craft the issue of Knowledge Quest I’m co-editing that will promote the conference.

This first round consisted of reading and rating ten proposals. Some were so wonderful that I wanted to be in the room right now, learning from these people. Some were meh. And some, unfortunately, were so jargon-heavy that I couldn’t tell what they were suggesting – and I’m supposed to be one of the people that knows what’s going on!

That’s the problem with any profession, though: the jargon. In finance, “DK” means “don’t know” (as in “that trade was dk’d” when a buy or sell doesn’t settle for some reason) while in fashion, it’s Donna Karan. I worked in an outplacement firm with ties to the Landmark Forum, and conversations were riddled with Forum-speak that confused outsiders.

What we have to remember is that jargon changes, and that outsiders don’t understand. Part of advocating for your job, your profession, your vocation is to put it in terms that others understand, to lose the acronyms and jargon or risk losing your audience. I fear that librarians forget that simple fact in their rush to convince leaders/organizers that they do “get it” and can be relevant, strong advocates and teachers.

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