Many times we take organizing information for granted. We don’t realize that if information is not organized in some form or fashion, then it is almost impossible to find. For instance, dictionaries, telephone books, directories, encyclopedias, and all other tools that people use to find information has to first be formed into a coherent unity so that people can utilize the tools to their benefit. According to Arlene Taylor, organization of information also allows us to keep usable records of human endeavors for posterity, and this process has been utilized by libraries, museums, archives and other types of information institutions (Taylor, 2008, pg 99).
For libraries, organizing information is very important because it makes it easy for patrons to find and access materials on various subjects. One way in which materials in a library are organized for retrieval is through a process called controlled vocabulary. The purposes of using controlled vocabulary is to provide subject access to information resources in a catalog, to provide suggested synonyms to aid a user in subject searching and to save the user time (Taylor, pg 104). Some examples of controlled vocabulary are Library of Congress Subject Headings, MeSH – Medical Subject Headings, and Sears List of Subject Headings, which is used by small and medium sized libraries.
In order to give a specific example of a controlled vocabulary, I pretended that was working for a library and was given the task of creating a controlled
vocabulary and description for a variety of objects to be included in the information retrieval system for my employer. I choose three items, created a “title” for each object, wrote a brief description of each selected object, and created a thesaurus that encompassed my selected objects that could be used to retrieve the items from an information system. Listed below are the terms I selected along with the description and thesaurus.
Title: Mr. Potato Head
Description: classic American toy composed of a plastic potato that is decorated like a pirate. Ideal for ages 3-6 years old.
Thesaurus: doll, toy, plaything
Title: Classic Card Games
Description: cards designed for games and other entertainment purposes that include a number of people.
Thesaurus: entertainment, pastime, hobby
Description: flexible plastic wires that is made for playing with and performing tricks.
Thesaurus: plaything, tricks, hobby
I have to admit it was difficult trying to come up with short, but specific descriptions of each item. It’s easy to verbally explain what a slinky is, or a card game or a toy is but to write down the description in a way that makes it easy for the user to find it was not as easy. I ended up having to reference the actual dictionary term of each item in order to find a short, succinct way of describing it. Finding similar terms for the items was also difficult because they were physical items and not adjectives, which would have made it easier to find synonyms for.
Once records have been created, they are then encoded in order to allow for data transmission and encoding is accomplished by assigning tags,numbers, letters or words to discrete pieces of information in a metadata record (Taylor, pg 106). An example of an encoding scheme would be MARC, which stands for Machine Readable Cataloging. MARC records include: a description of the item, main entry and added entries, subject headings and the classification or call number (Smith). In order for the items I selected to be encoded through MARC, I would need to know the classification number for each item along with added entries that pertain to the main entry.
If I wanted to create a usable system of retrieval for the items in the collection, the items would definitely have to contain specific information that would make it easy for users to access them. From having a specific description down to the call number for the item, I would have to be as detailed as possible so that regardless of the kind of collection the items would go in, the user would be able to find them without difficulty.