Dear Annoyed Librarian,
I'm a new librarian and I would like your advice. I just started my first "professional" job at the Clackamas County Public Library in Poop Creek, Oregon. The problem is, I can't understand what anyone's talking about! I paid no attention in library school, and now I'm starting to regret it. What do I need to know to understand librarians?
Stumped in Poop Creek
It certainly does sound like you're up Poop Creek, but the Annoyed Librarian has just the paddle you need! Librarians are really very much like normal people, but they do have their own special subculture. Understanding this subculture is about the only reason anyone can possibly think of for going to library school, and you missed out even on that. This means you probably graduated at the bottom of your library school class, and that's quite a feat. I will write my response slowly, as I'm sure you can't read quickly.
So, here are a few morsels of wisdom--catch them as they fall from the lips of the Annoyed Librarian. To sound like a librarian:
1) Speak and write like ordinary people, but use a lot of exclamation points! That's what the Annoyed Librarian does when she wants to sound like a librarian!
2) You must use the right acronyms, even when they aren't really necessary. Never say "catalog" when you can say "OPAC"--or even better, OPAC!--even when the meaning is absolutely clear in context. Comment often about how MARC is out of date, and if they ask why, just roll your eyes and snort contemtuously. Some librarians talk a lot about BI. It has nothing to do with this. It means teaching people how to bibliograph.
3) Remember that librarians like "authority" and "control" and they especially like to combine the two. It does not mean that librarians are totalitarians (though some are), and it should definitely NOT call to mind an image of the Annoyed Librarian dressed like THIS (warning! Quasi-adult content! Do not click on this link at a public library terminal!) . They probably have something to do with the OPAC.
4) Always use the correct library jargon. Don't say "book." It's a "monograph." And never say magazine; you'll just sound like a rube. It's a "serial," or occasionally a "periodical" when you don't want to sound too pretentious or when you're complementing the periodicals librarian on the way her rack is displayed. And to show you're really hip to the jive, you can talk about "monographic series," thus combining two jargon terms. And be sure to say "Cutter number" a lot. Don't worry about what it means, just drop it into the conversation whenever you get the chance. Example: "She's sure got your Cutter number, baby!"
These quick tips should help you get through the day without seeming like the idiot you are. Most of the time, if you just have an enormous bottom, put your hair in a bun, and wear frumpy dresses, you won't even need to speak the language. Everyone will just assume you're a librarian and not question your apparent belief that "controlled vocabulary" means not swearing in front of the patrons. This advice especially applies if you're a man.
The Annoyed Librarian