Monday, June 1, 2009

Pet Peeves

For years I’ve been politely (maybe that’s my problem) reminding people that ISBN stands for International Standard Bibliographic Number so that saying ISBN Number is redundant. It’s like saying International Standard Bibliographic Number Number. (Same thing for PIN Number – Personal Identification Number Number – but that’s not specifically a library term and out of the scope of Quick T.S.)

Now there’s a new war to wage as I see more and more references to ILS Systems. ILS stands for Integrated Library System, so again saying ILS System is the same as saying Integrated Library System System.

Yes, I am a cataloger and therefore very picky about things like that. However, I feel the “problem” is broader than it might appear at first. Librarians, and especially catalogers, have a lot of jargon. We need to be careful when talking to non-library types not to use jargon if we want them to understand what we’re talking about. We even need to be careful when talking to non-cataloger librarians.

If you need to use the word “number” after the initials ISBN because you think the person with whom you’re talking will not understand you, then perhaps you shouldn’t be using the initials. Perhaps you should be using the entire phrase: International Standard Bibliographic Number.

I’m surprised how many people (even librarians) are not familiar with the initials ILS. They likely know what an online catalog is and probably what an OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) is, but don’t think of it as being part of a larger system – an Integrated Library System. An ILS is an inventory of holdings with a user-friendly (one hopes) interface for searching and locating those holdings. It includes additional modules such as serials check-in and acquisitions for ordering new items as well as a module to circulate those items to the public and a way to create various reports. It may include other features, too, such as a repository for digital images.

There’s always discussion in library circles about the catalog and what it should be and for whom. Perhaps in a few years, there will be a different set of initials to contemplate.

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