November 19th, 2010
Time: 5:00 – 6:30PM
Location: UWM Libraries 4th Floor Conference Center
Birger Hjorland, Renowned Theorist of Classification & Epistemology
Library classification (as well as indexing and other forms of knowledge organization) faces serious challenges at both the practical and theoretical level. At the practical level the single libraries increasingly do away with making their own classification in favor of buying pre-classified bibliographical records (mainly from Library of Congress, LC) or relying on free-text search or the users' ability to identify needed documents elsewhere - and then borrow them at the library. At the theoretical level many researchers, managers and users believe that classification - as well as other kinds of metadata - are not worth the effort, rather search engines can be improved without the heavy costs of providing metadata. This presentation will argue that classification is necessary at both the practical and the theoretical level, and it should not be seen in isolation from other challenges facing libraries - for example whether libraries are able to maintain high quality user services. At the practical level there is a need for cooperation between libraries and other kinds of information systems (such as bibliographical databases) rather than for individual solutions. At the theoretical level there is a need for quality control mechanisms, for documentation of each decision made and for the replacement of the philosophy of classification from being based on "standardization" to being based on classifications tailored to different domains, discourses and user groups. If we do not solve both the practical (organizational) and the theoretical problems very soon classification may well disappear as both a practice and as an academic subject within LIS because new times are better served by new solutions.