I have three responses when I have no idea what someone is talking about; I glaze over and hope no asks me a question, panic that someone will ask me a question, whereas my third response is a mix of anger and frustration because it’s jargon and why are they using it.
When discussing this blog piece with a friend she sarcastically told me, “I love jargon! It lets people know that you are part of the in crowd and they are not. How else will people know that I know more than they do?” Every profession, community, and organization has its own lexicon. Our library professional organization is identified by initials, the divisions and round tables, committees and task forces are identified by acronyms, initials, and abbreviations. Libraries can be a world of classification by alpha and numeric coding. I listened for an hour to a webinar not knowing that a MIG did not refer to a fighter jet, but rather a member interest group.
I know jargon is a barrier, from twelve years of special education Individual Education Program (IEP) meetings to corporate jargon taken from trendy business paperback bestsellers and TV personalities. Didn’t know there was a Kramer (Cramer) who wasn’t on Seinfeld. I am aware that budget and finances make some people uncomfortable or even bored. When presenting my first budget to the ALSC Board, audience members walked out and one commented that they did not like number discussions. I was flabbergasted, OMG, sad face emoji, the budget is the backbone of the organization, it’s the plan, it details the organization’s priorities, it’s the cool stuff! How could any informed decisions be made without understanding the underlying financial impacts?
Armed with the knowledge that everyone may not love finance and economics like I do, I decided financial literacy was the key. Surely, if illustrated with graphs and pie charts, the excitement of the budget discussions would increase, plus I would throw in a power point with piggy banks. Asking the budget chair what should be added to the financial literacy power point, she returned her tip sheet given to new committee members (an 8 1/2x 11 sheet of terms and acronyms with explanations), based on my vocabulary that I typically used in the regular course of a budget meeting. It should have been turned into a bingo card. Lover of process art, universal design, and fine-free libraries, I was creating barriers with financial jargon! I have recreated the list into a bingo card for your enjoyment.
My tips to avoid the financial jargon and other barriers are:
Spell it out
I love saying ALSC but I try to make sure to spell out Association for Library Service to Children at least once. The same applies to financial terms such as Net Asset Balance (NAB). This can be hard, as sometimes when asked, I don’t remember what the letters stand for – sad, but true, my recent response to a query of what ASGCLA stands for was, “I believe the “g” is silent”. And yes, I am also a member of the Association of Specialized, Government & Cooperative Library Agencies.
This is especially important for abbreviations and/or words used regularly in financial documents. For example, the abbreviation FY means fiscal year; state that it is a 12-month accounting period and may vary from a calendar year. It is important to know when the 12 months start and stop, (ALSC’s fiscal year runs from September 1 to August 31) what are the impacts, such as projects need to be finished by August 31st prior to the end of the fiscal year.
Avoid language, buzzwords, jargon, acronyms, that discourage discussion, trust, and transparency.
Present financial data in multiple ways, words, numbers, and pictures. Offer spreadsheet in larger font (14-16) on larger paper.
Consider asking “How to do I make this better?” use surveys, get feedback, and incorporate the results. Continually question, revise, and refine.
Not everyone knows what they may need, even when asked. Silence can be an indication of a question or need. I personally need larger print when reading, especially numbers. Several board members appreciated/coveted my larger spreadsheets with increased font size and going forward I will always have extras.
Where to get more information to feel confident on budget and finance:
- Association for Library Service to Children’s Budget Manual
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB Money as You Grow
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB Librarian Training
- Financial Industry Regulatory Authority FINRA Investor Information
Is there financial jargon you’ve never understood or always been confused about? How do you best learn about financial details? Let me know in the comments below. I’m always eager to improve talk about money!
This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competency of Administrative and Management Skills.
Today’s guest blogger is Paula Holmes. Paula is the current Fiscal Officer for the Association for Library Service to Children. Her opinions, of which there are many, are her own.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.