Oct 31

Vocabulary Control

Tomorrow I’m adding occurrences of topics to a topic map. So, I’m thinking about vocabulary control. From Victor’s recent post, “Controlled Vocabulary in the Trenches” he says, “[a]s with any design exercise, you need a scope, users and user intentions to guide the work.” Sigh. I know, I know.

I’ve also been thinking about my first experience as vocabulary control maven. In grad school, Roxanne and I took the indexing work of our classmates and set out normalizing the terms for a 27 year cumulative index of The Library Chronicle. Looking at our subject index now, I’m reminded of some of the problems we wrestled with. However, there are some choices we made that I can’t remember the reason for at all. On the whole, it’s stuffed full of the easier entries — proper names of places, books, people, and plays — only a few more adventurous attempts at general categories such as time periods, literary styles, and artistic media. The categories we chose, though, do seem very appropriate for our audience of bibliophiles and librarians. Not too bad I think.

I’m also relieved to be working in a medium where we can do something a little more helpful than “actors. see individual actors.” Thanks. If I knew the name of an individual actor, do you think I’d be staring at the entry “actors?” Just in case anyone needed to be reminded of the advantages of digital systems for finding information over paper indexes…

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