Libraries of Babel: exploring library language and its suitability for the community

Libraries of Babel: exploring library language and its suitability for the community PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to examine the different aspects of language that are present in the signage, handouts and websites of public libraries. It discusses the extent to which this language reflects the varying demographics of library clients.Design/methodology/approachThis paper reports on a qualitative study, which took a document analysis approach and utilised an inductive-coding technique to analyse data collected from four lower North Island libraries in New Zealand.FindingsFive language aspects were identified from the collected data: monolingual, bilingual and multilingual language; language context; welcoming and prohibitive language; language consistency; and jargon. The nature and incidence of these aspects were evaluated for each of the four libraries. In some cases, the libraries achieve an accurate reflection of client demographics through their language. However, each library could make some changes to their use of language to better accommodate their distinct communities.Practical implicationsThis paper suggests that modifying library language to better reflect client demographics will contribute to an atmosphere of inclusion, welcome and acceptance. Such an atmosphere will promote information access for all members of the community. Recommendations for change are made, as well as suggestions for future research.Originality/valueThis paper contributes to the body of knowledge on communication and language in libraries, particularly in a New Zealand context where there is a paucity of research on this topic. This paper benefits libraries and clients by identifying patterns, contrasts and potential improvements. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Library Review Emerald Publishing

Libraries of Babel: exploring library language and its suitability for the community

Library Review, Volume 66 (8/9): 16 – Nov 7, 2017

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
0024-2535
D.O.I.
10.1108/LR-04-2017-0034
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to examine the different aspects of language that are present in the signage, handouts and websites of public libraries. It discusses the extent to which this language reflects the varying demographics of library clients.Design/methodology/approachThis paper reports on a qualitative study, which took a document analysis approach and utilised an inductive-coding technique to analyse data collected from four lower North Island libraries in New Zealand.FindingsFive language aspects were identified from the collected data: monolingual, bilingual and multilingual language; language context; welcoming and prohibitive language; language consistency; and jargon. The nature and incidence of these aspects were evaluated for each of the four libraries. In some cases, the libraries achieve an accurate reflection of client demographics through their language. However, each library could make some changes to their use of language to better accommodate their distinct communities.Practical implicationsThis paper suggests that modifying library language to better reflect client demographics will contribute to an atmosphere of inclusion, welcome and acceptance. Such an atmosphere will promote information access for all members of the community. Recommendations for change are made, as well as suggestions for future research.Originality/valueThis paper contributes to the body of knowledge on communication and language in libraries, particularly in a New Zealand context where there is a paucity of research on this topic. This paper benefits libraries and clients by identifying patterns, contrasts and potential improvements.

Journal

Library ReviewEmerald Publishing

Published: Nov 7, 2017

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