A lot of vocabulary that the Berkeley Public Library uses on their website can be considered outdated, and changing them has been proven to help other libraries. In their book Transforming Our Image, Building Our Brand, Valerie J. Gross discusses all of the different ways that dry and often confusing vocabulary can be changed to create clear messaging to library users. In addition, Gross discusses how other industries have "revolutionized their image by harnessing the power of language" (2013). 

Much of the vocabulary that Gross suggests is to help reposition "public libraries as education" (2013). "As education, our actual value will be immediately understood through our crystal clear vision: We are education" (Gross, 2013). In this way, libraries will be able to more easily gain the funding necessary to create all of the opportunities that it has been but with a more clear understanding of the public which will garner support that the library may not already have (Gross, 2013 ).

Storytime or Class?

Storytime is one of those phrases that could be changed. Gross suggests calling those specific programs children's classes (2013). Changing this creates clarity for what the event is offering to the community. Storytime can fall "short of conveying the full educational value of what" it is actually happening (Gross, 2013). This will increase the perceived value of what the event taking place offers as well as the expertise of the person leading the event (Gross, 2013). Classes can also replace other names for programs as well as workshops, seminars, events, initiatives, and projects (Gross, 2013). Gross explains that most people will not notice the changes that are being made who are already attending the programs and those who may not have been interested in a program might have a different reaction to the language because of the value our society puts behind language like classes versus programs. (Gross, 2013).

Program or Workshop?

"Like the word program, programming associates chiefly with radio and television broadcasts, and IT" (Gross, 2013). "Saying services essentially places us in the same category as: social services, citizen services, and community services" (Gross, 2013). Gross suggests changing the word services and programming to curriculum or curriculum development can make whatever the library offers to its community more impressive, and truthful of what libraries actually offer (Gross, 2013).

Circulation or Service Desk?

Another word that Gross recommends changing is circulations (2013). "Hearing the word circulation triggers in most people thoughts of newspaper distribution or health-related matters, such as blood circulation (Gross, 2013). So for example, changing circulation to borrowing or loans, as well as changing circulation department and circulation desk to the customer service department and customer service desk (Gross, 2013). This can help clear up a lot of confusion about what circulation is by using language that people already understand. This can also create a space that people will be more comfortable in because sometimes the language that libraries use can be intimidating.

Patrons or Customers?

Gross also recommends that libraries change what they call people who use the libraries. The two top words they describe are student and customer. "Student should be used at every opportunity, as it advances our goal of being viewed as education" (Gross, 2013). This fits in with changing programs to classes as well as creating an overall idea that a library is an educational place.

All of these changes in language can help the library better communicate what they are offering to their communities and clear up any confusion about what libraries' goals and missions are.                                                                         -Katryna Pierce


Circulation [online image]. https://library.albany.edu/node/134

Early Literacy Class [online image]. https://venturafriendsofthelibrary.org/?p=6332

Gross, V. J. (2013). Transforming our image, building our brand. ABC-CLIO. https://sjsu-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/1cue0e3/01CALS_ALMA71402235860002901

Libraries Workshop Series [online image]. https://www.library.umass.edu/news/libraries-workshop-series-spring-2020/

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