The Organization of Information

Gobinda G. Chowdhury (Nanyang Technological University)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




Chowdhury, G.G. (2000), "The Organization of Information", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 6, pp. 303-310.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

As the world is moving from printed to digital libraries, the need for appropriate organisation of information, for its effective and efficient retrieval, is becoming more important. In addition to the traditional approaches to organising information using classification schemes, cataloguing and vocabulary control tools, several new tools and techniques have appeared recently for organising digital information resources. However, there have not been many good books that cover all these tools and techniques – traditional as well as new – for organising information. Arlene Taylor’s The Organization of Information is an appropriate attempt to meet this demand.

Many library and information science schools offer a course, which is often a core course, on information organisation. Such courses cover a wide range of topics such as bibliographies, indexes and catalogues; metadata encoding standards, such as MARC, SGML, HTML, XML; vocabulary control tools such as thesauri, subject headings lists, and classification schemes. This book covers all these topics. It has ten chapters plus a two‐page conclusion. Chapter 1 gives an overview of the organisation of recorded information in different environments, such as libraries, archives, museums and art galleries, offices, and the Internet.

Chapter 2 describes the features and functions of basic information tools, such as bibliographies, catalogues, indexes, finding aids and registers. Chapter 3 charts the historical development of the organisation of recorded information ranging from ancient civilisations to the modern age of library automation. Chapter 4 describes the various standards for encoding records: MARC, SGML, HTML, XML, and the Warwick Framework.

Chapters 5 and 6 discuss metadata description, and metadata access and control, respectively. Chapter 5 provides general descriptions of ISBD, AACR2 (revised edition), TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), Dublin Core, and other metadata standards. Chapter 6 discusses issues related to the choice of access points in catalogues and the AACR2 principles governing access points. Chapter 7, the longest chapter in the book (41 pp.), covers different aspects of subject analysis and indexing, controlled vocabularies: thesauri and subject headings lists, ontologies, and basic concepts of natural language processing. However, the descriptions of the various topics are too brief to give a good overview; for example, the discussion on LCSH is limited to a paragraph followed by a couple of sample entries.

Moreover, there is very little discussion on how subject headings lists like LCSH are now used in the Internet and digital libraries.

Chapter 8 discusses different aspects of library classification. It gives a brief description of the DDC with some illustrations from the latest (21st) edition, but other classification schemes are discussed very briefly.

There is a section on classification of the Internet that talks about subject directories, like Yahoo!, and refers to some works that are trying to apply library classifications schemes like DDC and LC for organising information on the Internet. Chapter 9 describes the various approaches to the arrangement and display of information sources and metadata in different environments – libraries, archives, and databases. Chapter 10 discusses some basic concepts of systems design as it relates to the organisation of information. The book also has a glossary and a comprehensive index.

The strength of the book is that it gives comprehensive coverage of the topic and discusses the tools and techniques of organising information in different environments, ranging from traditional libraries and archives to the Internet. However, the author has tried to cover too many things in too little space – 20 per cent of the book has been taken up by the glossary and index, leaving only 228 pages to discuss so many issues. Nevertheless, this book, with such a broad coverage and good overview of the entire field, will be quite useful for core courses on information organisation offered by library and information science schools worldwide.

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