Essential Words Every Academic Librarian Should Know

May 11, 2018 Lucy Whitmarsh

Have you ever considered words? Not the plain everyday words, but the ones that have complex meanings. The words that can take entire sentences and shrink them down into a singular group of letters. Some may have crossed language barriers already – schadenfreude (German) is widely understood as a term for delighting in the misfortune of others – but others remain rooted in their original language of origin.

So, which of these words are essential for all academic librarians, no matter the language they speak? How many words exist that can help capture the often chaotic days of a librarian and the role s/he plays in his/her institution?

1. TSUNDOKU [tsoon-doh-koo] - Japanese


At the heart of most librarians is a book lover, a seeker of knowledge and information. At the same time though, librarians are busy people! So tsundoku – the act of buying a book and leaving it unread, alongside other titles you’ll never get time to read – might be quite familiar.

2. DESERNRASCANCO [the-zEn-ros-kan-so] - Portuguese

Moving at such a busy pace means often having to think quickly. If you’ve ever had to improvise or ‘hack’ a creative solution to a problem, you’ll want to learn this word.

3. TAARRADHIN [tAh-rAh-deen] – Arabic

This is a word for all the peacekeepers out there, who are often searching for ways to keep everyone happy. Being at the heart of an academic institution sometimes means offering a happy solution for everyone, a true agreement between all parties involved.

4.  NUNCHI [nUn-chE] - Korean

Similarly, being central to an institution means continually building and working on professional relationships. To communicate effectively you may have learned the subtle art and ability to listen and gauge others moods.

5. VERSCHLIMMBESSERUNG [versh-lim-BESS-air-oong] - German

In times of change, it is inevitable that this might happen. You may have encountered supposed improvements that simply make things worse in the library environment.

6. POCHEMUCHKA [pa-che-'mooch-ka] - Russian

As a source of knowledge for students, faculty and researchers you may come across someone who asks too many questions.

7. TARTLE [tart-uhl] - Scottish

If you work in a large institution or across multiple sites you’ll recognize the panicked hesitation while introducing someone because you can’t quite remember his/her name.

8. SERENDIPITY [ser-en-dip-i-te] – English

When you find something good without looking for it, like when a job opportunity suddenly becomes open or your hard work naturally aligns with a wider project that’s just come to light.

9. ZALATWIĆ [za-wat-vich] - Polish

Sometimes it’s a little harder though, and you might need to use your personal charm or network to just get something done, employing the art of persuasion and connections

10. SENY [sen-j] - Catalan

Academic librarians may be inspired by this ancestral Catalan wisdom, aiming for thoughtful perception of a situation – combining level-headedness, awareness, integrity and taking the right action.

11. ARBEJDSGLÆDE [ah-bites-gleh-the] - Danish

Quite simply, that feeling of happiness that comes from having a satisfying job.

Special thanks to our European Library Advisory Board members who sparked this idea with conversation and the sharing of interesting words in their native languages over dinner.

About the Author

Library Services, Wiley //

More Content by Lucy Whitmarsh
Previous Article
How the Active Learning Trend is Changing the Library Landscape
How the Active Learning Trend is Changing the Library Landscape

How the modern trend in schools of active learning rather than didactic has helped libraries change their s...

No More Articles