Thursday 18 October 2007

Library and Information science in UDC - arguments for revision

It has been long felt that there is a need to revise classes related to library and information science. But because there were so many classes in urgent need of revision in the UDC, and resources were scarce, this task is still outstanding.

At the June 2007 UDC Seminar it was mentioned that we will be looking into revising the field of library and information science very soon and although plans have not be finalised as yet we hope that by 2009 we may have the proposal published.

Up until now, new terms have been constantly introduced under the existing classes. Also because of the fact that UDC is a synthetic classification many new concepts may be actually expressed through combination of the existing simple classes. This was considered to be of sufficient help while awaiting for an overhaul revision.

One of the reasons why the revision of library and information science is not so straightforward and why it cannot be done in a short period of time is the fact that concepts related to data, information, knowledge documents, metadata, indexing, information retrieval and information access are scattered in UDC in the following areas: (0...) Document forms, in 001 Knowledge, 002 Documentation, 004 Computer sciences, 006.9 Museums, 007 Activity an Organization. Communication and 02 Librarianships. So as we may see, some of the concepts in information science are subsumed to 'institutions/services' e.g. libraries, archives, museums, some under the phenomenon of information, some under technology and tools applied.

Recently, with the paper by B. Hjorland published in the proceedings of the 6th CoLIS Conference, as a special supplement of Information Research, 12(4) "Arguments for 'the bibliographical paradigm' are some thoughts inspired by the new English edition of the UDC" - our attention was again drawn to this problem.

B. Hjorland has looked into the alphabetical-subject index of the new English BSI edition and concluded that UDC does not contain the following concepts:

'Missing' concept: Digital library
In UDC expressed by adding the common auxiliary of form (0.034) Machine readable documents and (0.034.2) Digital documents respectively to any aspect of collection or document management or services dealing with digital documents

'Missing' concept: Knowledge organization
Resources dealing with knowledge organization systems for the purpose of mediation of knowledge are usually classified under 025.4.05 Indexing and retrieval languages for the whole of knowledge while content dealing with theoretical aspects are classed by combining 001 Knowledge and common auxiliary for processes -048.42 Arrangement. Organization, thus 001-048.42 in UDC would stand for Knowledge organization

'Missing' concept: Indexing
This concept may be missing in BSI alphabetical index but is certainly not missing in the UDC. There are several numbers for indexing 025.4 Classification and indexing, 025.4.04/.06 Indexing and retrieval, purely computer aspects of information retrieval are at 004.78

'Missing' concept: Automatic indexing
Expressed by combining 025.4.05 Indexing and retrieval languages with 007.5 Self acting systems or 007.54 Without human operators. Automata. Thus 025.4.05:007.54 stand for 'automatic indexing'

'Missing' concept: Information management
This is expressed by combination of 001.101 Information and 005.9 Fields of Management , thus 001.101:005.9 would be 'Information management'

'Missing' concept: Information retrieval
In UDC, there is a special auxiliary table to be used with 025.4, for various types of information retrieval

[B. Hjorland also mentioned terminology in class 1 Philosophy and 159.9 Psychology - but this really ought to be addressed separately]

Apart from the fact that the subject-alphabetical index of a particular edition may not be an entirely accurate way of assessing the indexing capability of a classification - the comments by B. Hjorland are very important as they draw attention to yet another problem and that is the lack of a proper subject-alphabetical index to the UDC MRF which leaves publishers with the need to create their own.

The reason why UDC does not have a standard subject-alphabetical index similar to the Dewey Decimal Classification's excellent 'relative index' is because it was felt in 1993 when the UDC MRF was built that it was best that each publisher (French, Russian, English, Czech etc.) create their own index that suits their products and their use. Because of the fact that UDC MRF database was maintained with text retrieval software and was distributed as a database file - the searching of captions and examples was easy. As a consequence some UDC editions have excellent indices due to the effort and high level expertise involved - one example is the Russian edition which is created by subject field experts in the Russian Academy of Science - but other publishers may not have such resources available.

It is now felt, and B. Hjorland's comments illustrate the reasons very well, that this may have not been the best approach for all publishers. Therefore, in the process of creating the new UDC MRF tool in 2007 we made provisions for a subject alphabetical index to be created. We plan for the first version of this alphabetical index to be available in 2009 but improving this to become a relative or even thesaurus-like index may take several years.

In the meantime, it is always useful when users draw our attention to the missing terminology as this enables us to act immediately upon this either by adding new classes or by examples of combinations or illustrating how a new subject can be classified using synthesis.