What we organize(and why) LIS 551 Dorothea Salo
Svenonius on prerequisites• To create a system of organizing information, you need: • Ideology: the “why” of organization • Formalized praxis: the “how it’s done” • Theory: the “how it SHOULD be done” • Problems: the “er, does this really work the way we thought it did?”• So let’s talk about the systems that got us where we are today. • Keep this list in hand! What is each system we’re talking about addressing?
Key people in c. 19th info-org history• Panizzi: “Let’s organize the British Library!”• Dui and the alphabet-soup avalanche • Dewey Decimal (DDC), UDC, LCSH, LCC, AACR• Cutter the Systematizer: objectives and principles of organization • lives on in the “Cutter number”
Bibliographic objectives, per Cutter• Find a book if you know its author/title/subject. • “Known item” search. (Svenonius: “ﬁnding objective”) • Access point: Hooks chosen for searching. (More later.)• Find every book the library has with a given author/title/subject. • Svenonius: “collocation objective” • COLLOCATION: Put like things together, along a given axis of “likeness.” (Fiction vs. non-ﬁction?) • THIS is the organizing principle aimed at browsers.• Be sure you have the book you were looking for.
Lubetsky the nitpicker• Added “ﬁnd the right edition” to the mix. • How often does this matter? Seriously? In practice, for a very few works and a very few users. • Is this really a primary objective? Really? See what you think when we get to AACR2 and FRBR.• One important distinction: “work” versus “edition.” • Think about the Bible.• Paris Principles: 1961.
IFLA 1997• FIND entities corresponding to search criteria.• IDENTIFY entity, or distinguish it from closely-similar entity• SELECT entity matching a need, or reject it as inappropriate• OBTAIN/ACCESS desired object. • this one’s new! but the Web made it salient.
Classiﬁcation• The operationalization of collocation!• Bring like things together, with respect to one or more attributes • in an economic, extant-record-minded, and technologically up-to-date fashion.• Distinguish what is exactly alike from what is almost alike. • Even if it’s just “c. 1” vs. “c. 2”• Underlying assumption: an information package can only be in one place.
Navigation• Author, title, and subject aren’t the only possible breadcrumbs! • Adaptations • Associations (e.g. genre) • Mentions • Series and sequels• “Mapping” the bibliographic universe • Given one information package, ﬁnd another one “like” it based on associational criteria. • Again, the Web forced acknowledgement of this objective, but this isn’t quite “web navigation.” • Svenonius says “random associational criteria aren’t economic.” Do you agree?
What is this “information” stuﬀ anyway?• Lots of deﬁnitions out there! • info theory: “The information in a message is how improbable it is compared to all other messages.” Um. • Svenonius: “the content of a message created by humans, recorded, and deemed worthy of preservation.” • Not synonymous with “fact” or “true belief!” Fiction counts as information. • Not synonymous with “data” or “sense impression!” Can’t reduce Homer to data. (Also consider Linear B. We can look at it, but we can’t extract information from it.) • “Worthy of preservation” begs a LOT of questions.
So what?• So we understand the boundaries of what we are and aren’t organizing. • If we don’t, we build systems that either don’t handle everything we need to organize, or pay much too much attention to unimportant edge cases (Lubetsky!).• So we understand and exploit the essential characteristics of what we organize.
So what’s a document?• “a piece of information” Really? (Think about a photograph.)• “A writing... conveying information.” Really? • Ranganathan thought so!• “A material having... a representation of the thoughts of men.” • Photographs, petroglyphs, cave paintings, the Sistine Chapel... it’s all documents. Documents don’t have to be textual! You just have to be informed by them. (Otlet)
Suzanne Briet• “any physical or symbolic sign, preserved or recorded, intended to represent, to reconstruct, or to demonstrate a physical or conceptual phenomenon.”• What’s the key word in that deﬁnition, for you?
What IS a document?• Key Otlet/Briet insight: it’s not anything inherent in the thing we’re considering. • Least of all the physical form!• It’s how WE treat it. We grant something document-ness. • Partly by organizing it the way(s) we organize documents!
So, come on, really, antelopes?• Fair enough.• But let’s take that a little further. How are libraries and archives similar to and diﬀerent from: • Zoos (why not?) • Museums • Herbaria and similar kinds of research collections.• Think about WHAT gets organized, HOW, WHY, and FOR WHOSE BENEFIT.
A good word to know: REALIA• Quoth Wikipedia: “three-dimensional objects from real life such as coins, tools, and textiles, that do not easily ﬁt into the orderly categories of printed material.”• Do we have these? Sure we do.
Lots of content carriers!• List a few.• What does that mean for organization systems?• What diﬀerence does it make when the carrier is digital? • Think about information surrogates such as catalog records while you answer.
Thanks!• Copyright 2011 by Dorothea Salo.• This lecture and slide deck are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.