Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Learning | Ombudsman


Recently, a co-worker stumbled across the word ombudsman while she was helping the customer look up some federal government job titles.  We talked about what an odd word it is.  

I remember an Ombudsman's Office at my undergraduate alma mater; it helped people get through red tape with things like housing, financial aid, legal matters, and so forth. But I never really looked up the word, and wondered where it came from.

I did look the word up in the dictionary; you will find the definition and etymology at the end of this post.  I'm hiding it at the end, because I want to show you a few things about using SSJCPL's website,

Consulting the library catalog

I started by searching the catalog. I used both the classic and shiny new beta catalog, and found the same results in each of them. (Try out the shiny new catalog, and let us know what you think! We are still testing it and tweaking it a little bit, but it won't be long before it's the default search on our site.)

The only result from a keyword catalog search for ombudsman was

The catalog suggested trying the term ombudspersons, which yielded a 1973 document from the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare: Child advocacy : report of a national baseline study


Many library users are unaware of how much help our website's electronic resources can provide, especially when you are at home or on the go, unable to stop by the library for a quick dictionary or encyclopedia look-up.  

As amazing as it is to be able to do an internet search on any subject, the internet is not always the best place to look for reliable information with accurate citations.

The library recently expanded its database offerings. I have a feeling that you will be seeing more blog posts about the amazing qualities of these new additions, whether from myself or other bloggers.

Most of these databases can be accessed from home, through the library's website. You will need to sign in with your library card and PIN number to use them.

I'm just going to feature one of these today, the MAS Ultra: School Edition database.  It's a tool for high school students. Our website describes it thusly: "Full text of popular high school magazines, biographies, primary source documents and reference books. Also contains an image collection of photos, maps and flags. Some magazine coverage back to 1975."

Search for ombudsman in the MAS Ultra: School Edition database, and you will find a handy explanation of the term's origins in the Swedish judicial system, and the use of the word in the United States. You'll even be able to play a clip of the word being pronounced correctly with different accents--those would be American, Australian, and British.

Office of The Ombudsman, Basseterre, St. Kitts,
from Martin Wippel's photostream on
Some rights reserved.


I consulted Webster's II New College Dictionary (1995) for the origin of ombudsman. I learned it is derived from the Norwegian term for steward or manager.  The first syllable is from a root meaning about; the second syllable means command, and of course the last syllable means  man. The dictionary also listed other forms of the word; you might find the word ombudswoman for a female, or the gender-neutral term ombudsperson. 

1 comment:

  1. I love how you've integrated the library's resources with your research! :)