Abstract – Wenger

Wenger, E. & Snyder, W. (2000). Communities of practice: The organizational frontier. Harvard Business Review 78(1), 139-145.

In today’s business world, the community of practice is an emerging organizational form. Communities of practice are groups of people informally bound by common expertise or passion for an enterprise. Communities of practice are as diverse as their purposes and membership. No matter how these communities function, however, community members inevitably share their experiences and knowledge in creative ways. Although communities of practice may appear like latest managerial catchphrase, much anecdotal evidence exists for their effectiveness. In general, however, these communities of practice have been slow to catch on because the term is phrase is relatively new in business vernacular, only a limited number of companies have made the choice to nurture these communities, and it’s difficult to maintain the organic, spontaneous, and informal nature of communities of practice in an organizational environment. Those companies that have tackled these issues, however, have reaped the benefits derived from communities of practice. Businesses can overcome the paradox of managing these informal groups by identifying potential communities of practice that will benefit the company’s goals; provide the infrastructure that will support the communities and enable them to contribute to the company structure in meaningful ways; and, use innovative ways to determine the value of the company’s communities of practice. As managers begin to understand what communities of practice are and how they work, companies will be able to realize the rich source of knowledge that they provide.

~R. F.


Abstract – Norman

Norman, D. (1993). Chapter 4: Fitting the artifact to the person. Things that make us smart: Defending human attributes in the age of the machine (p. 77-113). Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.

Artifacts help us keep track of the often meaningless, arbitrary tasks of daily life. Two viewpoints about artifacts exist. From a personal point of view, artifacts change our tasks rather than making us smarter or improving our memories. From a system point of view, a person and an artifact are more powerful together than either alone. The study of human capabilities and the study of artifacts are integral to one another. When designing artifacts, representations of how they work must be considered. Before advent of advanced electronic artifacts, the mechanisms of artifacts could be determined by observation and physical manipulation. These artifacts, whose properties and purposes are perceivable based on what can be observed, are categorized as surface artifacts. In recent time, artifacts have been developed using electronic technologies. By merely observing the artifact, it is difficult to ascertain how these devices work. These artifacts, which require an interface to transform information hidden within their internal representations into surface representations that can be used, are categorized as internal artifacts. Both surface and internal artifacts have advantages and disadvantages based on the appropriateness of their representations to the needs of a person. Artifacts, both physical and cognitive, must be designed so that they are easy to learn and use. As a part of the design process, both the task for which the artifact is being created and human nature must be considered. An artifact that is effectively designed will have perceived affordances that correspond with its defined purpose.

~ R. F.

Abstract – Dykstra

Dykstra, M. (1988). LC subject headings disguised as a thesaurus. Library Journal 113(4), 42-46.

Changes to the Library of Congress Subject Headings were introduced in December 1986 to help users make better sense of cross reference structure. At first glance, these changes appear to have provided a fix for the ambiguities that were characteristic with the prior “syndetic structure” of LCSH. It would seem that the implementation of the clearer coding associated with standard thesauri would be an appropriate adoption. The fact remains, however, that the LCSH list is not a thesaurus. The use of this coding structure, therefore, is misleading, impossible to achieve, and professionally irresponsible. By applying these codes, we, as librarians, undermine the work that has done to create clear standards for thesauri and harm our own professional credibility. Although the LCSH list is now easier to use, we must find a solution for subject access that allows the Library of Congress to adopt thesaural codes for LCSH without violating rules established by the International Organization of Standards; ensures a shift from an unruly to a rule-based system; enables library OPAC users to more intuitive and useful strategies for subject searching; and, position librarians concerned with subject access to contribute of fully automated retrieval systems.

~ R. F.

Thesaurus Construction and Maintenance – Week 12

Batty, David. “Thesaurus Construction and Maintenance: A Survival Kit.” Database 13. February 1989. pp. 461 – 468.

The use of a thesaurus can facilitate the search for information. The building of thesauri, therefore, is an integral part of information management. Planning and developing a thesaurus involves several basic steps. The users of the thesaurus must be identified along with their needs and expectations such as controlled language or free text searching. The range and depth of the thesaurus must be defined with respect to the core area, fringe areas, and outside areas. Sources of the raw vocabulary must be identified, and then raw vocabulary must be collected and recorded. The raw terms should then be organized into clusters of associated terms. These clusters of terms should be mutually exclusive whenever possible. Notations may be applied as a means to order these clusters and subclusters in a meaningful and useful manner. Priority of clusters will generally be implied through the notational structure. After clustering and possibly notating, the raw vocabulary of the emerging thesaurus must be refined into the form that will be used by indexers and searcher. This refining process should include confirming the level of detail needed, translating the raw vocabulary into terms acceptable to users, distinguishing between homographs or the same word that has different applications in the thesaurus, and adding scope notes to clarify the way in which a term should be used. The development of the thesaurus is completed with the addition of the RT relationship to a term. The RT designation must be inserted deliberately by the lexicographer as it does not emerge in the clustering phase of thesaurus building. Maintaining the thesaurus involves adding new terms, deleting existing terms, and amending terms that are confusing or have typographical or spelling errors. Managing maintenance should be the responsibility of a single office or person to maintain consistency, and changes to the thesaurus should be communicated expeditiously to users. Software for thesaurus management may ease some aspects of maintenance but good indexers and lexicographers are still essential.

Abstract – Faceted Classification

Hunter, E. J. “Chapter 3: Faceted Classification.” Classification Made Simple. (2002) pp. 8-24

A facet is a fundamental aspect of an entity that has more than one fundamental aspect. To create a faceted classification, the fundamental aspects of various entities must be determined based on analysis. Related aspects are grouped and given a notational symbol. The resulting scheme can then be represented in an array. The classifier chooses in which order to produce citations and schedule. Citation order will be hierarchically determined based on the needs of the user of the classification system. As the classification scheme becomes more exhaustive, an appropriately arranged index will make the scheme more usable. An introduction to the classification scheme will also provide users with information about how the scheme may be used.

~ R. F.

Abstract – Buckland

Buckland, M. (1999) Vocabulary as a central concept in library and information science. In Arpanac, T. et al. (Eds.), Digital libraries: interdisciplinary concepts, challenges, and opportunities. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science [CoLIS3] 23-26 May 1999, Dubrovnik, Croatia, (p 3-12. Zagreb: Lokve. Available at: http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/~buckland/colisvoc.htm

Although qualified uses of the term “vocabulary” like “natural language vocabulary” and “controlled vocabulary” occur frequently within the fields of Library and Information Science, the unqualified use of the term is integral if under-represented. Three claims acknowledge the importance of vocabulary: the claim that vocabulary is central to the cost-effectiveness of digital libraries, the claim that vocabulary is vital in terms of issues of identity within information science, and the claim that vocabulary is integral as a range of values in a collection and fundamental to filtering and retrieval systems. Vocabulary must be addressed whenever issues of search and retrieval arise. Often the vocabulary of the indexer and that of the searcher are not analogous. In terms of digital technology, vocabulary can be manipulated as character strings, but the social aspect of vocabulary is not a consideration in this process. In order to address issues of vocabulary in library science, we must agree on a definition of the term that applies satisfactorily with the domain. In Library and Information Science, vocabulary has come to denote an adaptation of natural language for the purpose of formulating indexing terms. If we are to use the term with its broader connotation, however, we can accept “vocabulary” as the range for any kind of metadata. When used in this fashion, vocabulary is a foundational component in the structure and use of digital libraries.

~ R. F.

Abstract – Comments on Steinberg’s Article

Mulvany, N. (1996). Comments on Steinberg’s Article about Web Indexing. Available at: http://www.bayside-indexing.com/wired.html

“Seek and Ye Shall Find (Maybe)” provides an overview of the state of information classification and retrieval on the Web. Although Steinberg discusses classification and provides detailed discussion of several web services that deal with information, the article is not about indexing as most indexers understand the practice. One must concede that the internet has changed the face of information classification and retrieval mechanisms. At the same time, however, it is a dreadful proposition that one day the primary readers of material will be search engines. Automatic text processing methods may be inevitable but their severe shortcomings must be addressed.

~R. F.