Managing Knowledge – or not

I think we’ve pretty much established that the management of knowledge depends a lot on how you define knowledge. If you define knowledge as some type of commodity rather than a dynamic flow, management is much more plausible. It just makes sense that if you regard knowledge as a dynamic flow, any plan to manage it becomes much more involved.

Over the course of this semester, I’ve reached my own conclusion that knowledge is a dynamic thing that is dependent upon there being a knower, is completely unique to that knower, and cannot be managed in traditional classification schemes. After reading the article about Communities of Practice by Wenger and Snyder, however, I think it’s much more realistic to talk about managing the creation of knowledge. As knowledge is created, so can new data sets be gathered and new information made available. This information can, in turn, be managed in all those ways that information professionals espouse.

The concept of knowledge management has a certain air of micromanagement to it. Wenger talked about not being able to tug on a cornstalk to make it grow faster or yanking a marigold out of the ground to see if it has roots. In the same way, you can’t dictate the creation of knowledge. It just happens. You can add a little fertilizer, make sure there’s access to sunlight and water, and you can pull out the weeds. All of those things may make everything grow better but they don’t make anything grow.

I may be one of the few people that are actually glad that we can’t do everything. Knowledge gets to take its place with dark matter and the “theory of everything” and God; existing without our complete comprehension and outside our control.

My Life As a Car (or augmented by one)

The tool that probably augments me most is my car. I use it to get places that would involve prohibitively lengthy journeys, either in duration or distance, without assistance. Norman, when talking about artifacts, says that, from a system point of view, the person plus the artifact is smarter or more powerful than either alone. That is definitely true of me and my car. Without me, the car is just a bunch of parts linked together. Without the car, I can go about twenty miles a day on foot (on a really good day). “Me plus the car” can go as long as road and money hold out – over a thousand miles a day (with good interstate and convenient rest stops). Without the car, I wouldn’t be able to commute to school and I wouldn’t be able to shop at stores in neighboring communities on a regular basis. It allows me to take my kids to school AND get to work AND stop at the grocery for doughnuts in a half hour span. At the same time, my car doesn’t provide all sunshine and roses. The time I save in some areas is actually often spent at the gas station or the service station or talking with the insurance agent. The money that I earn by being able to commute to work is often spent in fuel, oil changes, car washes, insurance, license fees, and new tires and brakes. Rather than walking to close-by places and giving my body necessary exercise, I often think “it will be easier to just drive.” This results in higher stress levels and lower health.

There are things that I would never be able to accomplish without the augmentation provided by my car. At the same time, when I use that tool inappropriately, I find that it has a very detrimental effect on my life in general (that’s not even talking about the burning of fossil fuels).

Week 11 Assignment

Indicative Abstract

Bush, V. (1996/1945). As we may think. Interactions, 3(2), 35-36. Originally published in Atlantic Monthly, 176(1), 101-108. Available at:

Emerging technologies and innovation have allowed mankind to exercise greater control over its environment. Improvements in communication have allowed extensive interaction and communication between experts and specialists. The result has been an exponential growth in research that is in danger of being lost if not recorded and made accessible. Innovation has occurred that makes record making a much cheaper and efficient prospect, but obstacles still exist. Future advances in technology will allow for much more intuitive creation of records in different formats. Because many of the aspects of record maintenance are repetitive, automation of these processes is likely. Scientists will not be the only people who will use these new technologies. Wherever logical processes are utilized, such as searching and retrieving in a library, automation technologies will prove useful. In a library, however, retrieving records is made difficult based on the artificiality of systems of indexing. These systems tend to be arranged in ways that are foreign to the human mind. Future innovations in library search and retrieval will necessarily work in the traditional indexing manner, but also by association. Associative indexing is the idea that the selection of any item may also immediately and automatically lead to the selection of another. These associations build trails which can be stored in a device such as a memex. These trails can provide a more robust searching experience. With advancing technology and new fields of specialization in all areas of human knowledge, it is imperative that we also develop means to record, store, and retrieve this new information. If we neglect this record keeping, we run the risk of undermining future innovation.


Informative Abstract

Bush, V. (1996/1945). As we may think. Interactions, 3(2), 35-36. Originally published in Atlantic Monthly, 176(1), 101-108. Available at:

Emerging technologies and innovation have allowed mankind to exercise greater control over its environment. Documentation of research leading to these advances has proven difficult to maintain in a usable collection. Future efforts to record, store, and retrieve information provided in this documentation will focus not only on traditional manners of indexing, but also on associative indexing.

~ R. F.


“Indexing by Extraction” Terms

adoption of mechanisms – libraries

associative indexing


collection of data

collection of observations








instrumentalities – cathode ray tubes

instrumentalities – photocells

instrumentalities – photography

instrumentalities – relay combinations

instrumentalities – thermionic tubes


logic – formal




methods of reviewing

methods of transmitting



record of ideas

repetitive processes of thought – arithmetic

repetitive processes of thought – manipulation of data

repetitive processes of thought – statistics




selection by association

selection by indexing



summation of human experience

systems of indexing




“Indexing by Assignment” Terms

Didn’t have access to ASIS based on work schedule and distance from University Library

LCSH Subject Headings


Information resources

Libraries – automation – forecasting

Information storage and retrieval systems – forecasting


DDC and LCC classes

028 – Reading & use of other information media

Z699 – Machine methods of information and retrieval

Mary Dykstra Gets Mad….Real Mad

In her article “LC Subject Headings Disguised as a Thesaurus,” Mary Dykstra makes the case that, although the Library of Congress has adopted thesaurus notation, the LCSH does not constitute an actual thesaurus. Several classmates have pointed out that they would never confuse the LSCH with a thesaurus, but I wonder if their criteria are actually valid. In fact, given the fact that the LSCH notation is identical to the standardized notation implemented for properly developed thesauri, one could easily grasp the implication that LCSH IS a thesaurus. Based on Dykstra’s arguments, it’s pretty obvious that LCSH does NOT constitute a valid thesaurus in either the strictest, governed sense or the looser interpretation of the general public. Dykstra’s argument, which is substantiated by Aitchison, Gilchrist, and Batty, is that a thesaurus deals with terms – not subject headings that are often compositions of terms. She used the example of the subject heading “television and children.” How do you get a narrower or broader term for something that includes two terms? It should also be noted that LCSH was never intended or developed as a thesaurus. Rather than going through the steps required to build a true thesaurus, the Library of Congress chose to adapt an idea to fit over an index that was already developed.

It’s probably a good idea to take a look at the other side of the coin, however, and see just where LoC gets off calling LCSH a thesaurus. David Batty says that “a well-developed thesaurus is based on a recognition of clusters of concepts that share common characteristics.” Get that? He said clusters of CONCEPTS. Based on just applying that one comment, it could be argued that LCSH is a thesaurus. Of course, that’s completely disregarding all the other components are required for a thesaurus, as well as conveniently forgetting about use of TERMS rather than subjects.

I think that Dykstra probably freaked out a little excessively, but I do see her point. If you’re going to dress something up like a duck and call it a duck, you better either make sure that thing is a duck or expect people to comment on the fact that it’s not a duck. And if you start stocking your duck pond with fake ducks and selling fake ducks and trying to convince your neighbors that those dogs dressed in duck costumes are ducks….just get used to the fact that people are going to call you a bunch of names.


Aitchison, J., and Gilchrist, A. (1987). Planning and design of thesauri. Vocabulary control. Specificity and compound terms. Structure: basic relationships and classification. In Thesaurus construction: a practical manual, 2nd ed (p. 4-10, 12-33, 34-60). London: Aslib.

Batty, David. “Thesaurus construction and maintenance: a survival kit.” Database 12. Februrary 1989. p. 461 – 468.

Dykstra, Mary. LC subject headings disguised as a thesaurus. Library Journal. Mar. 1, 1988. p. 42-46.

Extraction vs. Assignment – To be or not to be (an index)

Wow! I have to evaluate the effectiveness of indexing by extraction and indexing by assignment by contrasting the advantages and disadvantages of natural language and controlled vocabulary. Sometimes I like to read aloud our tasks to people who have no idea what “representation and organization of knowledge and information” means. The blank stares and rapid retreats always give me a little evil chuckle.

I guess the best place to begin is to define “indexing by extraction” and “indexing by assignment.” Soergel describes two different ways of indexing. The first is “entity related indexing,” analogous to “indexing by extraction” that involves “preparing entities representations.” An indexer observes the various aspects of the entity to be indexed and prepares a list through a searcher can peruse to determine the relevance of that entity to their search. Of course, among other things, the problem with this type of indexing is deciding what information should be included. Soergel also talks about “request oriented indexing” which would be analogous to “indexing by assignment.” In request oriented indexing, an indexer anticipates query statements and builds an index of resources based on what searchers may be looking for. One of the major challenges, however, with request oriented indexing is how to anticipate what query statements a searcher will use. Even without throwing “natural language” and “controlled vocabulary” into the mix, discussions of indexing by extraction and indexing by assignment are already difficult.

At the same time, as information professionals, we need to at least try. So, here’s my try.

Controlled vocabulary and indexing by extraction seem to go hand in hand. If an indexer has access to a controlled vocabulary, finding applicable words and phrases within a document will be much easier. In fact, it would involve simply denoting each occurrence of a term from the vocabulary. At the extreme, however, the result would be much closer to a concordance than an index. Not surprisingly, indexing by extraction will more often lead to a concordance like result than a topical index.

It should also be noted that indexing by extraction may also help build a controlled vocabulary, so that the relationship between the two things is very “chicken vs. egg.” The advantage of this type of indexing could exist for searchers familiar with the controlled vocabulary. Often these query makers have developed a type of internal thesaurus to help them navigate the index.

Like the relationship between entity-oriented indexing and controlled vocabulary, a connection exists between indexing by assignment (request-oriented indexing) and natural language. In indexing by assignment, the indexer must anticipate what questions may be asked and how the materials may relate to those questions. It is very important that the indexer be familiar with a variety of perspectives from which an entity may be approached. An article about head injuries among baseball players may be applicable to team doctors or trainers, baseball players, brain surgeons, eye doctors, parents of little leaguers, or psychologists to name a few. Each perspective may ask diverse questions for which the article may provide relevant information. It is then the responsibility of the indexer to anticipate all of these varied query statements. Of course, this seems like a much more appropriate way to index until you consider the immense amount of knowledge that must be held by the index along with the amount of time available.

There are, not surprisingly, huge debates about which type of indexing is better. Soergel mentions a third alternative that involves both anticipating queries and analyzing entities in advance. It seems that this may represent a happy medium. Perhaps an even happier medium would involve analyzing the body of searchers and determining what would best suit their needs. If one is anticipating searches from individuals within a specific discipline, a controlled vocabulary may be appropriate. If, however, a larger number of perspectives are anticipated, it may be more appropriate to index by request.

In my opinion, a good index should include both indexing by extraction and indexing by assignment. That index…the good one…can be both useful to a broad segment of searchers and instructive.

Soergel, D. (1985). Chapter 13: Index language functions. Organizing information (p. 213-222, 225-249), San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Classifying Life

One of the things that we talked about during a break in class was how some of us classify housework. I thought it would be interesting to use a faceted classification scheme to organization the tasks that need to get done.

A – Room

B – Surface

C – Cleaning Method

D – Cleaning Implement

E – Cleaner

1 – Kitchen

1 – Floor

1 – Clean

1 – Paper Towel

1 – No Cleaner

2 – Bathroom

2 – Window Sills

2 – Vacuum

2 – Towel

2 – Scouring Powder

3 – Bedroom 1

3 – Counter

3 – Mop

3 – Rag

3 – Disinfectant

4 – Bedroom 2

4 – Sink

4 – Scour

4 – Sponge

4 – Dish Detergent

5 – Living Room

5 – Toilet

5 – Polish

5 – Scouring Pad

5 – Pinesol

6 – Dining Room

6 – Furniture

6 – Dust

6 – Mop

6 – Multi-Surface cleaner

7 – Laundry Room

7 – Appliances

7 – Sweep

7 – Broom

7 – Toilet Bowl Cleaner

8 – Loft

8 – Curtains


8 – Vacuum Cleaner

8 – Furniture Polish


9 – Windows


9 – Carpet Deodorizer


Using this scheme, I could very easily explain what my kids need to accomplish while I’m in Indianapolis at class. For instance, I could leave a note that said A5B1C2D8E1 so that they’d know that I wanted the floor in the living room vacuumed. Of course that seems pretty easy. But I could also leave a note that says A6B8C6D8E1 letting them know that I want the curtains dusted using the vacuum cleaner. Truthfully, if I begin leaving these notes, my family may think I’ve lost my mind. Maybe more would get done just because of the novelty factor.

Essay about librarians and metadata and stuff

After my readings for this week’s topic, Organizing Digital Collections, I was equal parts overwhelmed, blown away, and excited. First, there was just so much material, I was completely overwhelmed and also very conscious that I’m woefully ill-equipped to understand everything the articles were talking about. I plowed through Metadata: An Introduction by Jan Smits even though for each piece of understandable information I encountered twice as many pieces of information that were gibberish to me. So, I decided to go ahead and read Seeks and Ye Shall Find (Maybe) by Steinberg and the Comments on Steinberg’s article about Web indexing by Mulvaney. After mucking about in all these articles (including the readings from Hunter and Libicki), I did come to a few conclusions. First, it’s important for me to recognize that no one has come up with all the “right” answers yet as far as information organization goes. If fact, as long as this person is organizing information and that person is trying to retrieve information, there will be conflict. Just as someone says “I can’t straighten my desk because then I wouldn’t be able to find anything,” we’ve inherited a variety of classification schemes that are messy but we’re used to them. The internet, however, has really thrown librarians for a loop. You can’t classify a webpage using the Dewey Decimal System. Well, maybe you can. But would it be a helpful classification? Perhaps my favorite article, although dated, was Steven Steinberg’s piece in Wired magazine. It brought back memories of the internet experience “way back when” but also echoed a lot of problems that librarians are still faced with. What IS the difference between an index and a concordance? What thesauri provide the most value? As someone embroiled in public librarianship, I even found myself asking “who cares?” I mean, I’ve only recently begun using the LoC thesaurus, and that’s only because I’ve been through a cataloging class and want my records to be more accurate. How many other public library employees, however, don’t have a clue? They copy catalog or “wing it” without any concept of the power that MARC record really has.

As I read and read and read some more, the thing that struck me most was how great the divide is between pure information science and public librarianship. I think we, as a profession, have dropped the ball, allowing academic librarians and information scientists to really hold the keys to the kingdom. It’s too bad because, like it or not, public librarians are the face of the profession. Maybe that’s why librarians get so little respect because the ones that are front and center are also the ones that are least connected with the nuts and bolts of information retrieval, the role of the internet as a valuable tool as much as any encyclopedia, and the ones that are the least educated. Ask a public librarian about classification and you’ll probably hear a lot about Melvill Dewey. I sincerely doubt that you’ll hear much about Aristotle or John Wilkins. If we really want people to value public libraries, using the resources it provides fully, we have to be involved with, not only library science, but information science. Even if we’re scared to death of creating metadata, we need to realize that we do that every time we create a new MARC record and integrate it into our catalog. We need to stop being so stodgy about our formats and stop being so bookish. It’s one thing to love reading. Hey, I love it too. When we are so tied into our print collections that we can’t see the library for the books, we really need to rethink our mission. Is it “to provide our patrons with information that has been bound and can be stored on physical shelves” or is it “to provide our patrons with the information they’re looking for?” I know what we librarians tend to SAY and what we tend to DO. It seems like we should be saying and doing the same thing. Maybe then we’d actually get a little respect.

I should also point out that it was a very hopeful thing to find that there are jobs out there not necessarily in what we’d think of as libraries that utilize a lot of the skills that we are learning in “library school.”

Hunter, Eric (2009). Classification Made Simple.

Libicki, M. et al. (2000). Knowledge organization and digital libraries. Appendix C in Scaffolding the new Web: Standards and standards policy for the digital economy (p. 75-90). Rand.

Smits, Jan (1999). Metadata: An introduction. Cataloguing and Classification Quarterly 27 (3/4), 303-319.

Steinberg, Steven G. (1996). Seek and ye shall find (maybe). Wired (May 1996), 108-114.

Mulvaney, N. (1996). Comments on Steinberg’s article about Web indexing.