sobota, 28. avgust 2010

Do terminologists still need a library?

Gostujoče pero - Barbara Inge Karsch

With a computer in every household, free access to online research and lightning-fast search possibilities, do terminologists still need librarians? Is the concept of a public place where books and magazines are stored obsolete? I am pleased to accept Ivan’s invitation to post on the "Bibliotekarska terminologija" and share my thoughts on what libraries and librarians mean to terminologists in today’s fast-paced environments.

When I started out at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 1994, the department head of the translation and interpretation program, Jacolyn Harmer, took us on a tour to familiarize us with the campus resources. When we came to the library, she introduced to us the head librarian, Ann Flower, as “our future best friend.” And indeed we all became well acquainted with Ann, not merely because most of us had a job in the library during some part of our studies. The worst part of leaving Monterey two years later was leaving behind the wonderful resource that the MIIS library is. Most of us wondered how we would survive as translators without it.

Then, the world started changing: Much of the research material today is available in digital format; and much of what we need, we need instantly. BUT we also need much more of it. More precisely, many of our quick decisions are based on internet resources, but we are also making many more decisions per hour than we did back in the nineties or before that. And I can guarantee you that in many of these terminological decisions, we still need to involve a book, printed material or a library. Let me give you a few examples. Any time you need to coin a new term, you do well in consulting the basic language dictionaries, such as the Websters, the Duden, and so on. As I wrote in What I like about ISO 704, not all colleagues do it, but the better ones rely on the standard works. When I worked on German ERP (Enterprise resource planning ) concepts, I absolutely needed to have access to the standard business books (e.g. Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon). So, there is no question—thorough terminology work requires printed material that is generally more meticulously researched than digital information.

Granted we do need the standard books on our desk, as the trip to the library for every terminological entry—terminologists, in my experience, do between nine and 50 per day—would be too time-consuming. But when we do get stuck in our research, we absolutely will take advantage of the wonderful services that librarians offer today: Corporate libraries, for example, allow you to search resources as well as order new material through the Intranet. I used the Microsoft libraries to order standards as well as publications on background subjects that we were starting to get into. One year, for example, our terminologist group planned to get into ontology management. Since that was a topic that was interesting to other departments at Microsoft, the library already had the main books.

As for the public library, I use it all the time. The United States have a wonderful system of libraries that can get you just about anything you need. For one of my articles on the Profile of a Terminologist in Localization Environments, for example, I needed a very expensive publication. Well, I just ordered it. Now, that I have started my own business, I need to learn a lot about running a business, sales and marketing aspects, business plans, etc. I use the online search to find what is available and then order what I need, as I do not want to own all these publications. Most of us in this international life move a lot and we don’t want to haul around cases and cases of books that we only glance through once. I also go to the library to read magazines in German when I need a break. It gets me out of the house and into an environment that I am very comfortable in.

Entrance terrace to the Mercer Island Library by Barbara I. Karsch

I have had no need to ask the librarians at my local library branch, though. For one, I am pretty good at finding what I need myself; and second the system is so well-designed that users can find what they need themselves. The usability of the system shows that it was built by very capable people, and there is no doubt in my mind that we need them. That the relationship between translators or terminologists and their local library or librarian is not as close anymore as it was in the past, is simply a sign of our times: We aren’t on a first-name basis with the butcher or the baker anymore either—which was true in the village where I grew up. But we still need them.

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2 komentarja:

  1. Prijetno je videti, da pride ameriški strokovnjak njenega formata pisat na slovenski blog in za povrh še knjižničarjem! Lep dosežek uredništva. Boste kaj takega še ponovili?
    Dosti uspeha vam želim še naprej!

  2. Hvala za vzpodbudne besede! Da, praksa občasnih gostujočih piscev iz tujine se bo nadaljevala, dogovorjeno pa je že tudi, da bomo mi gostovali drugod.