The Accidental Taxonomist--An Overview
By Paula McCoy
Heather Hedden’s book The Accidental Taxonomist (Medford, New Jersey, Information Today, Inc., 2010) is an essential reference book for a subject that until now has been rather mysterious to those outside the world of controlled vocabularies and taxonomies. Numerous reviews have been written by librarians, professional taxonomists, information architects, and library school students, so yet another review is not required. What follows is a brief overview of the book that may help you decide whether to delve further into this type of indexing.
First, here are some reasons you might want to buy the book:
The Accidental Taxonomist contains so much information that it can be overwhelming. It’s the kind of book you don’t have to sit down and read cover to cover; rather, you might find it useful to read chapters or sections in any order based on what you already know (or don’t know) or what you are particularly interested in. Regardless of your current level of knowledge about taxonomies, you are guaranteed to find something you didn’t know before. And even if you decide not to enter this field full force, it’s still an interesting topic!
The book is divided into logical and well-arranged chapters, starting with “What Are Taxonomies?” and “Who Are Taxonomists?” It then moves to definitions of terms and their creation, and to relationships between terms. Having software to create and manage taxonomies is essential; this is covered as well, along with the both human and automated indexing. Knowing how taxonomies are used is essential to understanding the nuances of their structure, and Hedden describes real-world applications of taxonomies throughout the book. Finally, she devotes time to taxonomy as a profession, including freelance taxonomy projects. In this section, she provides practical advice on being a freelancer that should ring true for anyone who is already a freelance book indexer.
What makes The Accidential Taxonomist a major publication is that it fills a void: no other single source describes taxonomy work and the taxonomy profession so exhaustively. Furthermore, it is up to date with current technologies in the field—at least for the moment. So if you really like indexing and want to learn more about it, buy the book and keep it handy.
© 2011 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.