Review Taxonomies and Controlled Vocabularies Online Workshop, Simmons College GSLIS
By Carol Reed Spring, 2009
Ever tried to find something on a poorly designed website? It happens all the time, of course. As indexers, we may care more than the average person about the findability of information (oh, the rants my dog has had to listen to!), but bad search affects all of us. A world of information is no good if you can’t find what you need. Making information findable online or in a database is similar to indexing: success still depends largely on humans structuring and organizing the content.
Taxonomies and controlled vocabularies are the behind-the-scenes tools that help end users find what they need. Taxonomies create the language structure that guides navigation and search for websites and intranets. Controlled vocabularies and thesauri guide multiple indexers in selecting consistent terms for periodical and database indexes. The result is efficient search and navigation for massive amounts of content.
Taxonomy work requires the same kind of analytical skills and attention to detail that led many of us to become indexers. It’s a growing field, and we’re seeing more and more opportunities for indexers to learn about taxonomy development.
Last fall, I took the Taxonomies and Controlled Vocabularies Workshop online through the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Heather Hedden, who specializes in taxonomies, indexing, and search, will be teaching sessions in May and July.
The month-long course covers the different types of controlled vocabularies, how they’re used, ANSI/NISO standards, and processes for developing and implementing controlled vocabularies. Each lesson includes reading assignments and exercises, with instructor feedback and a forum for students to discuss questions. Students are encouraged to try out demos of the less expensive software packages to complete their assignments.
I found the workshop to be an excellent value. The exercises and feedback were especially helpful, since it’s always easy to think you understand something until you actually have to do it!
I'm already applying what I learned to an indexing project. The editor wants a cumulative index for several manuals that use very technical, proprietary language. Creating a glosso-thesaurus as I go is helping me keep track of the term meanings and relationships I infer from the text.
For me, the workshop has provided a great foundation that I can keep building on as I learn more about developing taxonomies and controlled vocabularies. If you’re interested in this area, I highly recommend the Simmons course.